Non-Action In Electra

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The play Electra discusses many principles that are also the focus of the Tao Te Ching. One of these principles is non-action, which the Tao Te Ching heavily supports and Electra seems to support. The two texts have different views on the core values of non-action, and it is important to make a distinction between the two, for the non-action of the Tao Te Ching is wildly different from that of Electra. The Tao Te Ching believes that non-action should be intentional and beneficial to everyone and should not disrupt the natural order, while Electra uses non-action to avoid conflict, especially through the character Chrysothemis. Her character is entirely based on non-action. Chrysothemis may appear to be a Taoist because of her non-action. However, …show more content…
Chrysothemis says “I value my freedom, so I submit / in everything to those that have the power” (Sophocles 38). This line makes it clear that Chrysothemis submits to her mother for selfish reasons. She wants to be in her mother’s good graces to be protected from her wrath, not because she believes her mother is right. According to the Tao Te Ching, “favor debases us. / Afraid when we get it, / afraid when we lose it” (Lao Tzu 13). Chrysothemis is living her life in fear of her mother deciding to punish her, which, according to the Tao Te Ching, is no way to live. She also knows that being in her mother’s good graces will be beneficial to her in the long run, for she will live a life without punishment and with more advantages than her sister, simply by submitting all her free will to her mother. Chrysothemis cannot be a Taoist because her so called non-action is for self-preservation. The Tao Te Ching says “on tiptoe [is] no way to stand” (Lao Tzu 24). This is exactly what Chrysothemis is doing. She has to constantly be on edge around her mother to avoid being punished or treated as poorly as her sister. A life spent in fear is not the kind of life that the Tao Te Ching supports. Chrysothemis is submitting to her mother’s authority out of fear, not because she truly wants to. Non-action, according to the Tao Te Ching, does not mean living a life of fear to avoid conflict. …show more content…
The chorus strongly supports her logic and planning, wishing that Electra would feel the same. When Chrysothemis and Electra are arguing, the chorus steps in, saying, “there’s some merit in what you both have to say” (Sophocles 38). The chorus later supports Chrysothemis, saying, “there is nothing better than / thinking ahead and thinking clearly” (Sophocles 62). The chorus is more supportive of Electra’s desire for action, although they also believe that Electra and Chrysothemis should find compromise. The chorus knows that acting against Clytemnestra could be dangerous, so they support Chrysothemis’s self-preservation, believing that thinking ahead is better than making rash decisions and acting in an impossible way. However, the character Electra believes that this non-action is cowardly and that it is better to fight back than to submit. Electra says, “either be foolish, or be sensible / and betray those you love” (Sophocles 38). Electra believes that her sister is being cowardly and that submitting to a woman who hurt them so much in the past is wrong. This view is more closely supported by the Tao Te Ching than the views of the chorus, although the issue with Chrysothemis’s non-action is different in both texts. Both Electra and the Tao Te Ching understand that Chrysothemis is unsatisfied with her position under her mother, and they would both agree that it would be better for her to remove herself from this

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