In “Medea” author Euripides depicts how alienation can fuel rage. In title character Medea’s place, she is left by her husband, Jason, for another woman and is soon to be exiled from her home. Both alienation and fear are ingrained into the daily lives of women in a patriarchal society. Today’s society reflects that of Medea’s world in ancient Greece with most American households relying on a male leadership role. This puts women in a forcefully obedient position, living almost under their husband instead of with them. With sexism ingrained into the system that we live in, it is almost impossible for a woman to escape from this life once she is in it. Although the story takes place thousands of years ago, Medea reflects these issues that still survive in today’s society. The actions of Medea explain how alienation in this sense through sexism and isolation can leave a scarring mark on ones mental stability, causing them to act out in ways they feel justified to fill the void of pain that others have caused them, no matter how destructive the actions may be.
Medea was a woman who didn’t have much choice in her actions ever. She listened to the men around her and they used her. Jason, her husband used her for political gain and then dumped her the second he found a better option:
“I killed, and so gave you the safety of the light.
And I myself betrayed my father and my home,
And came with you to Pelias’ land of Iolcus.
And then, showing more willingness to help than wisdom,
I killed him, Pelias, with a most dreadful death
At his own daughters’ hands, and took away your fear.
This is how I behaved to you, you wretched man,
And you forsook me, took another bride to bed,
Though you had children; for, if that had not been,
You would have had an excuse for another wedding.” (p.54)
As seen in the text, Medea betrayed her entire family, evening murdering her own brother. Falling in love with Jason and doing whatever he wanted her to do was just the first part of turning her into the person she is now. Listening got Medea no-where, and instead of having a happy ending with the person she loved, she was instead threatened with exile. This betrayal showed Medea just how powerless she really was in the Greek society, if Jason didn’t want her to do something she couldn’t do it. This betrayal leads to a descent into madness for Medea, and soon she has only thoughts of revenge for the men in power who used her like an object. After his betrayal, Medea sees Jason for who he truly is:
“O coward in every way—that is what I call you,
With bitterest reproach for your lack of manliness,
You have come, you, my worst enemy, have come to me!
It is not an example of overconfidence
Or of boldness thus to look your friends in the face,
Friends you have injured—no, it is the worst of all
Human diseases, shamelessness. But you did well
To come, for I can speak ill of you and lighten
My heart, and you will suffer while you are listening.” (p. 52-53)
Here we see Medea already had plans to enact revenge. She gave up everything for a man who is now throwing her away.
In Medea’s madness she made choices that she didn’t want to make. This includes the killing of her own children as well as Glauce, the future bride of Jason. This woman had never done anything wrong to Medea besides also being a pawn for political power. She, as well as Medea’s children were harmed only because they would hurt Jason. Being treated like an object for so long had made Medea lose her humanity and instead of thinking of a rational solution that would have allowed for her and her children to continue to live in Greece, she instead let out years of pent up rage in a fowl plot that resulted in tragedy for everyone that was involved.
The “princes” and “kings” of the past are now replaced with “businessmen” and “CEO’s”. These men in power are able to leave their wives whenever they wish for other women. The women who are left behind in these break-ups or even divorces are often “exiled” in their own way from the rest of society. This might be in the form of isolation from her husband’s higher-class social circle, or in the aspect of losing all of her assets that she acquired throughout the marriage, the loss of which might result in homelessness for the woman or even death. Men have a much higher remarriage rate compared to women, with men having more than double the rate of remarriages than women. This helps paint the larger picture that men have the ability to just abandon a family and start another one, whilst women on the other hand are trapped out of fear of being unable to remarry later in life.
One of the biggest alienating factors for women is the stigma for men to be seen with older women. Relationships where the man is much older than their partner are nowhere near as rare as relationships where the woman is older than their partner. This thought process might convince a woman to stay in a toxic relationship out of fear that there might not be anybody else for them if they end it. This fear can grow to resentment until finally it is full blown hatred for their husband. Living in this state can lead to a warped perception of reality where they believe the only option they have left is to kill their spouse to escape.
The feeling of being trapped is almost always the result of alienation and fear. As a woman in a patriarchal society, you have no one that can help you get out of these situations where you have no control. Men look at you as an object that other men possess, just look at the term “trophy wife”, where the man’s wife serves the same purpose has a medal. She is only used to boost the man’s status compared to his peers. Women in this position are often put into mentally and sometimes even physically abusive relationships where the only way they can continue to live is to delve further into their social prison.
Patriarchal societies has forced women into a life filled with both alienation and fear. Every aspect of a woman’s adult life leads her to be reliant on her husband to stay successful. She is expected to have kids that further trap her into the relationship and if the husband so chooses, he can leave at any time and society wouldn’t look down on him. This forced women to take desperate measures as the walls of a toxic relationship closes around them.