Desires and Societal Expectations

Both Sigmund Freud’s Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis and Sophocles’ Antigone demonstrate the constant struggle between one’s desires and the societal expectations held of them.  The two texts have substantial overlap in their discussion of a woman’s role in society and the need for women to repress their desires to be sexually open or independent and strong-willed because these characteristics are inappropriate of women.  Additionally, Sophocles addresses Antigone’s conflicting feelings of loyalty to one’s family contradicting the demands of leaders and society’s perceptions of her brother, as well as Creon’s struggle between his desires for vengeance and society’s negative view of his decisions as a leader.  Freud more generally discusses the omnipresent sexual desires of men and women that must constantly be repressed because society has deemed them inappropriate for discussion or exhibition.  The following gallery uses illustrations to depict the theme of the struggle between desires and societal expectations in both Frued's and Sophocles' works. 

This piece is a representation of the importance family closeness had to Antigone and how important it was for her to bury her brother, who she feels very loyal to and cannot betray (Sophocles 45-46). This piece was found over a grave where a brother and sister were buried together. In choosing to bury her brother, Antigone chose to die with him in going against Creon's orders, which she admits in the quote "I will bury him. I will have a noble death and lie with him, a dear sister with a dear brother" (Sophocles 71-73).
This piece shows how sexuality is meant to be an internal concept and should not leave the body or mind. The red line of the man's sexual desires in this piece does not leave his body, because, as Freud says, “First and foremost, what is sexual is something improper, something one ought not to talk about” (Freud 375). Sexuality must be kept inside because it is not socially acceptable.
This piece represents Creon's desire to rule with a strong hand, seen in his sentencing of Antigone and her sister to death (Sophocles 488-489). However, this sentencing has societal consequences for Creon, because his people do not agree with his decision. This societal conflict can be seen when Haemon says, "The common man, you see, lives in terror of your frown; he'll never dare to speak up in broad daylight... But I'm the one who hears what's said at night - how the entire city is grieving over this girl. No woman has ever had a fate that's so unfair (they say), when what she did deserves honor and fame" (Sophocles 690-695).
The woman in this piece appears to be naked and her body portrayed in a sexual way. The rigidness of the woman and her positioning makes it seem like she is being shamed for this sexual display. She looks almost as though she's in a position of social crucifixion. This displays Freud's statement that "[Society] has no interest in the recognition of the strength of the sexual instincts or in the demonstration of the importance of sexual life to the individual" (Freud 27). Exhibiting sexuality results in societal shaming and punishment.
This modest and femininely dressed woman is waiting on something. The image depicts an average, socially acceptable woman who appears to be submissive and feminine. She represents Ismene's character in Antigone, who describes the societal expectations women face. "We are women and we do not fight with men. We're subject to them because they're stronger, and we must obey this order, even if it hurts us more... And I'll obey the men in charge. My mind will never aim too high, too far" (Sophocles 62-68).
This image shows the hiding of one's sexuality and sexual desires because they have been deemed inappropriate by society. As Freud states, "Society believes that no greater threat to its civilization could arise than if the sexual instincts were to be liberated and returned to their original aims" (Freud, 27). Therefore, it is necessary to conceal sexual desire to meet societal expectations, as displayed in this image.
This image depicts the emasculation of the biblical character Samson at the hands of a woman. Samson is losing his hair, which is what gives him strength, meaning that a woman has taken away his strength, as Creon fears Antigone will do to him when he says "Listen, if she's not punished for taking the upper hand, then I am not a man. She would be a man!" (Sophocles 484-485). Both this image and this quote make it clear that society expects men to be strong and domineering over women, and it is unacceptable for women to take away a man's strength. In this way, Creon's desire to punish Antigone actually line up with what he thinks society expects of him.
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