Essay on Rosa Parks Character Traits

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Back in the 1960s, an African American woman by the name of Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a White male to bring awareness to racial equality. Although this was against the law at the time and caused one of the biggest political controversies known to date, Rosa Parks stood up for her own beliefs. A similar situation occurs in the play Antigone, the protagonist in the play by the same name performs an act of civil disobedience by burying her slain brother, an act which violates Creon’s decree. The play goes back in time to 441 BCE and is set in Athens, Greece where power was strongly desired by the two sons of Oedipus, named Eteocles and Polyneices. Eteocles and Polyneices end up killing each other in a battle over Thebes in the city of Argos. While many view the play as a tragic story of death and disobeying the “unwritten law”, in fact, it is about women’s justice and determination because all characters in the play are driven to pursue their goals. Most importantly, Antigone finds the strength to rival Creon’s cruel wishes and takes a stand to represent justice for her brother. The characters' ethnicity, the setting of the play, and the characters' costumes contribute deeply to my interpretation of the play Antigone.

To begin, the protagonist of the play Antigone is an African American woman by the name of Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks lived during the 1950s when there was rampant segregation and high poverty rates. Rosa Parks was asked to move to the back of the bus for a white male because being an African American woman she did not have equal rights. Parks did not listen and chose to stay seated because she was determined to take a stand for her beliefs to have just as equal rights as other ethnicities do. Rosa Parks (Antigone) in the play is extremely distraught over the fact that she is living in a male-dominated society where she can’t make important life decisions about her own life or her family.

Ismene: Would you bury him, when it is forbidden in the city?

Antigone (Rosa Parks): At least he is my brother--and yours, too,

Though you deny him. I will not prove false to him.

Ismene: You are so headstrong. Creon has forbidden it.

Antigone: It is not for him to keep me from my own. (lines 51-54)

Since the white male king Creon informs Parks that is it an “unwritten law” to bury her brother, she rebels against him for Polyneices' justice and plans to bury him anyway. Parks loves her brother dearly and mourns the loss of him, and her emotions take over her thoughts. In Parks committing this civil act of disobedience, she is sentenced to death by Creon.

Ismene: You ought to realize we are only women,

Not meant in nature to fight against men,

And that we are ruled, by those who are stronger,

to obedience in this and even more painful matters. (lines 70-73)

Being an African American woman standing up against a White, powerful man caused other people in the city of Baltimore to stand up for their rights and were inspired by Rosa Parks’s empowerment. With my interpretation of gender and ethnic roles in the play Antigone, the audience sees that Creon is, in fact, nothing without his label, and if he was a woman he would hold no power. On the other hand, with Parks as an independent, determined, and strong woman, the audience will understand that her single act can change the laws of the world.

Furthermore, the original play of Antigone takes place in Athens, Greece in 441 BCE. In my interpretation, the play will be set in Baltimore, Maryland in 1955. In 1955, white people were considered superior to African American-people and had to deal with extreme segregation. Baltimore, Maryland was home to thousands of African Americans, although many white racist people resided there as well. African American people would not be able to attend certain schools, transportation services, and even bathrooms due to “Whites” looking down on them like they were not human. Shortly after Polyneice's death, Parks went to meet her sister Ismene at an “all African American” park in the city to grieve the loss of their brother together. Parks bring attention to the importance of burying their brother to show the great love and respect they both have for him.

Antigone (Rosa Parks): I would not urge you now; nor if you wanted

to act would I be glad to have you with me.

Be as you choose to be but for myself

I myself will bury him. It will be good

to die, so doing, I shall lay by his side,

loving him as he loved me; I shall be

a criminal--but a religious one. (lines 79-85)

In this excerpt from the play, you can see that Parks is determined and will bury the brother, yet Ismene still refuses to question the decisions made by men. After a long talk about what to do about their brother, they part and go their separate ways as they are extremely upset with each other. Parks is then approached by a white woman who immediately sees the sorrow in her eyes and can’t help but ask what is wrong. Parks cries to the white female explaining why justice is needed for the death of Polyneices. As a woman, despite their different races; the woman makes Parks feel like she needs to do what feels best at heart.

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Ismene: How I fear for you, my poor sister!

Antigone (Rosa Parks): Do not fear for me. Make straight on your own path to destiny. (lines 95-96)

No matter the gender or race, the power of all women or African Americans uniting to make a change encourages others to stand up for what they believe is right.

To continue, each of the characters' costumes plays a big part in how people are judged. In my interpretation, men at the beginning of the play wear black suits with bright colorful ties. Each tie worn by the men holds value as it is a symbol of being a part of the higher class. As the men walk, they carry a large pride in their step; especially Creon.

Antigone: My nature is to join in love, not hate.

Creon: Go then to the world below, yourself, if you

must love. Love them. When I am alive no woman shall rule. (lines 575-577)

Creon is so wrapped up in the thought of power and manhood, he believes women are utterly worthless. Parks and Ismene wear worn-out attire that covers their entire body to represent no power. However, when Parks decides to make this great act, the clothing between men and women becomes completely switched. After Parks buries her brother, she wears luxurious dirndl dresses and delicate gloves. This fashion worn by Parks is a symbol of women's power and justice achieved for her brother. Creon enters the stage wearing a shirt with torn sleeves and sluggish pants; he is defeated by Parks as she goes against his unwritten law.

Chorus: Your decision it seems is taken: she shall die.

Creon: Both you and I have decided it. No more delay.

[He turns to the SERVANTS.]

Bring her inside, you. From this time forth,

these must be women, and not free to roam.

For even the stout of heart shrink when they

see the approach of death close to their lives. (lines 631-636)

Even though Parks makes a powerful statement about feminism and determination to show respect for her brother, the male-dominated society takes over and Creon sentences her to death. My interpretation of this scene shows that Parks is not of lesser value than Creon, yet surrounded by a male-dominated society where it is difficult to have a voice.

On the other hand, many people’s interpretation of this play is the protagonist Antigone is a terrorist.

Chorus: The savage spirit of a savage father

shows itself in this girl. She does not know

how to yield to trouble. (lines 515-517)

The Chorus and Creon believe that Parks is evil because she goes against the white, male king’s unwritten law. Parks is portrayed as ignorant and selfish for making such a drastic decision on her own. However, this is not true as Parks simply did something that she thought was right for her brother. This act of kindness brought love and acceptance to Rosa Park’s heart.

To conclude, the role of Rosa Parks shows strength, determination, and love throughout the play. With my interpretation of the play, the audience will understand that going against Creon’s unwritten law is not an act of terrorism; but rebelling against the social standards of race and gender to make a small act to change how people see African American women.

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Essay on Rosa Parks Character Traits. (2024, January 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
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