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Role of Women During the Time of Lysistrata

The True Role of Women During the Time of Lysistrata

Aristophanes’ significant contributions in the development of the theater arts and his standing in the Athenian community are well documented. His hilarious comedy, Lysistrata, reflects the disgust with war prevalent at Athens after the disastrous expedition to Sicily. It is ripe with sexual innuendo and provides much insight into the timeliness of human sexuality, desire, and the war of the sexes, yet it was intended to make a political statement regarding the folly of Athenian military aggression. Aristophanes was not suggesting that a sex strike might be an effective means of ending the Peloponnesian War, more likely that the reasons for the war itself were suspect. Lysistrata’s scheme to force the men of Greece to the peace table could never have been successful. Property concerns, gender roles, and the sexuality of Athenian men prevented Athenian women from exerting the necessary political influence.

Logistically, it would have been quite difficult for Lysistrata to enlist the aid of the women of Athens in her scheme. Greek society imposed standards of decorum that restricted a woman’s freedom of movement and required her to be escorted by a slave woman or an elderly relative when in public (Gulick 54). These restrictions were designed primarily to limit a wife or daughter’s contact with men outside her family and served men’s goal of avoiding uncertainty about the paternity of children, however they did allow women friends and relatives to socialize freely in each other’s homes. Even the scene of Lysistrata waiting to meet with Kalonike, Myrrhine, and Lampito doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary. Still, the coordination required would necessitate that Lysistrata be of substantial means. Only the wealthiest of women could successfully deploy couriers across battle lines, initiate a relationship with a Spartian woman of significant influence, and arrange for Lampito’s visit to Athens. Since, as Charles Gulick writes, “every woman of good family was under the guardianship of a man” (56), it seems unlikely that Lysistrata could managed such a feat.

Wives, in ancient Greece, were strategically selected for the purpose of producing legitimate heirs and maintaining control of property (Gulick 57). They were typically not the objects of their husband’s sexual desire. “Marriage was a matter of good family, good dowry, and good health. Given the differences in ages, education and experience, there were no real grounds for companionship.

Common Themes in Secret Sharer, Heart of Darkness, and Shadow Line

Common Themes in The Secret Sharer, Heart of Darkness, and The Shadow Line

Joseph Conrad’s stories The Secret Sharer, Heart of Darkness, and The Shadow Line share a number of themes. All three stories deal with a process of maturing that involves the loss of youthful illusions, a process usually precipitated by an actual “trial” that challenges the protagonist’s professional skills as well as his assumptions about his identity and sanity. In successfully dealing with the crisis, the protagonist reconstructs his identity and develops moral ideas rooted in acknowledgement of his own and others’ human weaknesses and thus of men’s necessary interdependence.

Each story is related from the point-of-view of one narrator: Marlow in Heart of Darkness and an unnamed captain in his first command in both The Secret Sharer and The Shadow Line. All exhibit a naive or idealized view of the world. Marlow chooses to go to the Congo because, since a boy, that part of Africa had always “charmed him.” When the narrator of The Shadow Line unexpectedly wins the command of a ship as a replacement for a newly deceased captain, he looks forward to going “out to sea. The sea-which was pure, safe and friendly” (96). Likewise, the narrator of The Secret Sharer prematurely delights in “the great security of the sea” (23).

All three narrators are also solitary figures. The two new captains are isolated by virtue of their position; they cannot become intimate with their men without the risk of losing their respect, and Marlow is culturally isolated in the African jungle.

Each narrator encounters an actual physical trial. The new captain in The Shadow Line finds, when at sea and with a crew afflicted by tropical fevers, that the “mad” fo…

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… stress. At the same time, by being temporarily seduced by, then by examining and separating out the mistakes of their doubles, the narrators draw new conclusions and incorporate new knowledge not only about themselves but about the responsibilities and realities of their chosen roles. Marlow announces that he “remained loyal to Kurtz to the last” (149), and the captain of The Shadow Line admits survival would not have been possible without his dedicated crew who are “worthy of [his] undying regard” (120). An inkling of these signs of a maturity that acknowledges men’s interdependence can also be found in the unnamed captain’s last gesture toward Leggatt in his gift of the white hat. This expression of compassion for Leggatt’s “mere flesh” saves the ship and indicates he has emerged from his self-absorbed isolation to begin to learn to lead his men.

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