In a flash one day it occurred to me that babies did not come flying out of a stomach which could magically reseal itself, as I had been thinking all of those years prior. I saw something (perhaps a woman, perhaps one with child), and suddenly I knew everything. It was a moment of realization akin to the first taste of a forbidden fruit: I was pre-pubescent and all knowledge, both good and evil, was mine. Because I knew exactly where babies came from, it suddenly occurred to me that women were, undoubtedly, insane.
Looking at three incomparable texts, this paper will attempt to explain why this is so, why women are the only fools with the eros to die. Like the young girl reaching for the fruit sin, I am an innocent but curious creature; Greek Tragedy has aroused me and, in this paper, I will attempt to tease out a few things that have furrowed my brow. I should first like to propose a re-reading of the character of Jocasta in Oedipus The King, which will allow us to understand the character of Antigone in the play of the same name.
As my background in black feminist literary theory will not allow me to resist such an analysis, we will turn to Mrs. Ruth Dead from Song of Solomon. We will, perhaps, see a connection between the work of Sophocles and Toni Morrison, such that we might understand these three women and the philosophical truths (and lies) that they represent. Surely I am not the first reader to be suspicious of Jocasta, mother and wife to Oedipus. In an attempt to assuage her husband, who is on the verge of discovering his true origin, she offers a short story which might prove the fallibility of oracles and prophecy.
She casually mentions in this story that a three-day-old son born of her and Laius was handicapped (mutilated?) and sent off to his death. This, however, is all circumstantial information. The point in Jocasta's tale is that the oracle which prophesied that this child would murder King Laius was proved false. Oedipus can, therefore, rest assured that any oracle spoken to him is equally unfounded.
[...] (1172) Surely I am not the first reader to be suspicious of Jocasta, mother and wife to Oedipus. In an attempt to assuage her husband, who is on the verge of discovering his true origin, she offers a short story which might prove the fallibility of oracles and prophecy. She casually mentions in this story that a three-day-old son born of her and Laius was handicapped (mutilated?) and sent off to his death. This, however, is all circumstantial information. The point in Jocasta's tale is that the oracle which prophesied that this child would murder King Laius was proved false. [...]
[...] Antigone's many references to darkness and to the dead prove her devotion to the uncanny, but the quality of her devotion is not uncanny; it is not unlike a mother's love (although Benardete argues that hers actually surpasses a mother's love, which may be what brings it into the realm of the uncanny): when you [father, mother, brother] died, with my own hands I washed and dressed you all and poured the lustral offerings on your graves” (955). The care that Antigone describes giving to the dead is reminiscent of a mother caring for a newborn. [...]
[...] Ruth Dead the he said, and stopped for so long Milkman was not sure he was going to continue. the bed. That's where she was when I opened the door. Laying next to him. Naked as a yard dog, kissing him. Him dead and white and puffy and skinny, and she had his fingers in her mouth.” Song of Solomon Mr. and Mrs. Dead have not been intimate since Milkman was conceived and we are not completely sure as to why this is so. [...]
[...] Our women are hard women, with hot hearts for cold deed What is the signification of this morbidly erotic space occupied by Jocasta, Antigone, and Ruth Dead? Is it really their place—and thus, the place of all women—to be, sometimes, among the dead? THE FINAL CHORUS A former midwife used to tell me that a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave. In giving life, she may be assuring her own death, and yet she must coneive. It is, perhaps, the most natural paradox. [...]
[...] I should like to argue, rather, that Ruth Dead might be another representation of the uncanny in that she is that home which is also foreign and strange; that she, as a mother to Milkman, is both canny and uncanny. In doing so, in an attempt to do so, it must be admitted that the notion of the uncanny is so complicated that almost anything argued, I fear, might have an equally powerful counterpoint. We shall, however, continue on, in hopes of at least contributing something worthwhile to a fascinating theoretical concept. [...]
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