The examination was finally accomplished. I had been dealing with the thesis-making since October last year and I picked the fruit of it now. The idea of analyzing either Antigone and Medea was coming from the sky; I had to face the bitter fact that our English Department had never been consulted by any ancient Greek literature. I still remember that I kept on my decision to work with the two tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides. Hard times, harsh critiques, and heavy load of finding the difficult sources had completely consumed most of my times. Now that thing had been done, I was feeling great and loose. It’s not about the grade that satisfied me, but it was the feeling of freedom aroused me the most.
The making of the thesis left me a new thing: I loved ancient Greek literature. Either the tragedies or comedies were rich of poetic composition, laden with meanings, loaded with political attitudes, and served as the ancestors of the plays that follow, e.g. Elizabethan drama. The words were beautifully written, the plots were well-managed; Greek tragedies were the real thriller.
Since I had been dealing with Feminism through the course of my studies, the Greek tragedies provided me with great ideas and corpus. I chose Antigone and Medea due to their paradoxical attitude towards women and female characters. The heroines in both tragedies had a comparatively stunning efforts against the male-domination (patriarchy, Kate Millett will say), but their destinies were severely outlined. Instead of achieving the victory for all the things she did in the burial of her brother, Antigone was banished to the very dismal site she could have ever imagined. What was more offensive for a mere slip of a rebellious girl than being sentenced to death by her own uncle? Sophocles showed his political attitude towards woman’s movement by poking fun at it. For the patriarchal bard, woman’s liberation should be banned and ‘buried alive.’ Similarly, Medea, for Euripides, was used as the mirror of attitude towards women and children. Taking the story from the famous Greek myth about Jason and Medea, the tragedy was masterfully blended with mortal corruption and betrayal with divine supernatural vengeance; Euripides’ gripping thrill ride trancends the ages to reveal the tragic darkness of (wo)man nature. Medea was a killing machine, who would do any treacherous deeds to avenge herself. The playwright had transformed a princess into a heartless assassin.
What was it all about? Both Sophocles and Euripides actually made a mockery towards woman; later Howard Bloch called it misogyny. It is the hatred, fear, anxiety, and deep distrust toward women. Greek tragedies, are then laden with misogynous dialogues and actions. Not surprisingly then, if we caught some of misogynistic plays by Shakespeare, who was much bound with Greek stories and ideas. Name Othello, Macbeth, Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, or King Lear, all left the pathetic heroines for no good endings. The catasthrope was only seen as the men’s triumph; while the women were absent, or without any consolidation at the conclusion. Then, one may catch that the feminist-look alike works of literature cannot be said as the medium of woman’s liberation. Those kind of works are not to be naively read as providing the examples of woman’s emancipation. Instead, the the ideology they bring to the readers are vise versa at all cost.
It was August 13 2007, the schedule was arranged for my final exam. Some people said that the number 13 was the number of unfortunate events. I was trying hard not to believe the myth, but when something (be it true of false) had been living with you for some long times, you would find it hard to neglect its existence. It has become a universal myth, that everyone in the planet would agree that ’13’ is bad luck. And so it came to pass, that the morning gave me the first disaster: my car’s tire was poured out. The flat tire was without reason. I didn’t remember that I had passed some thorny roads, or something. Someone might have jabbed through it.
I started to look around whether there was someone smiling or not. I was suspicious that my new neighbor, they were quite unlikely family. I didn’t know where they came from, what they did for a living. They didn’t maintain relationship with other residents: They were simply mysterious. I thought that one of the family members did it to my car. I felt like their youngest son hated me, because once I cut the a tree in front of my house, it fell down to his ground. I kept looking at their house, it is just next to my house. What did they thought they were doing in the garden by making such a bonfire? Celebrating their victory to have successfully flatted my tire? But they were busy as usual, like there was nothing to worry. Changing the tire would cost some times until 11 am. My scheduler reminded me to have arrived in campus at 1 pm.
The number 13 came across my sight. Would it be like an unfortunate day for me? Because it seemed so. And one bad luck usually succeded the other. On the way to campus, I was provoked into some debates with other drivers. It was a traffic jam and they almost hit the bottom my car. I could do nothing but to force myself patient. It was my big day.
The examination room had been waiting for me with a grave smile. I was reminded to call Drs. Bahrizal, M.Ed twice before the day, supposedly he would forget my final exam. The other examiner were Dra. Isramirawati, M.litt. and Marliza Yeni, MA, my first supervisor. I had lunch on the go, while picking some ideas or the answers for the questions the examiners would oppose later. I feel like I was Etoecles who should fight seven forces against his country in Thebes. If Eteocles then, died, I hardly wanted to follow him. So, the exam took place.
The powerpoint slideshow I had prepared seriously at home didn’t yield anything. I was only given five minutes to explain the whole thesis. It was a joke for me, then, I closed the powerpoint as soon as possible and tried to explain it in my way. The first attack came from Mdm Isra, who blatantly asked me with the detailed questions about the background of the thesis. I was furious to know that I forget to bind the thesis before, so that, the pages were all scattered like the lambs guided by the dog. I had to turn many pages over and over again, and it was tiring. She also rather objected to some of my answers. I lost the first round. With a bitter taste of vengeance, Mr Bahrizal opposed me directly to the content itself. He doubted my statement that both playwrights were making jokes at Antigone and Medea as the failure of feminism. Again, I got to show off pages per pages. Now I dediced to separate the thesis per chapter to make it a lot more easier to manage. However, he didn’t buy my arguments just yet. His voice raised and he began to walk around the room to show his bossy, bureaucratic, overconfident attitude. I kept arguing to my wit’s end, but he seemed never satisfy with it. At the top of his irritation, we walked out. I was mad, thinking that I spent a whole six months doing the research and he just didn’t believe anything to what I said. I also lost the second round, then. Was he playing drama this time? Frankly, it was difficult to differ the situation in which he was acting or just being serious. When one thinks that he is making fun, in fact, he tells something serious. When one supposes that he says something in a very solemn way, in fact, he is telling a lie. He is all too good to be true. He is my favourite teacher, anyway.
Miss Ija was not all silent in the room. As my supervisor, she gave questions, which opened up a new perspective in answering the other examiners’ questions. I was much helped by her statements and questions that indirectly led me to the right path again. “That was what a supervisor for,” I said silently. Not until Mr Crocodile was back into the room, were questions, protests, denials, rejections all coming back and forth. But this time, I could excellently answer them all. I won the third round. The next path was the evidence that Antigone and Medea were really the victims of misogyny, and hardly lost my point there. I also got the fourth round.
The final patch of my statement saw the examiners smile and look satisfy with my performance. I gave them chance to discuss about the mark and I peacefully get out of the room. I was still pale and look messy though some parts of my heart said that it was a good sign. Friends overwhelmed me like bees outside. They interrogated me with various questions: How it felt down there, how I managed the answer, how cruel the examiners were.
Five minutes were enough for them to take me back into the room. I was filled with anxiety before they annnounced my mark for the examination. It was ninety and I was relieved. Mr Bahrizal gave me big hug. He said I passed the mental test, trickery and his cunning attitude. Comprehensive exam is not only the academic test for a sarjana, but also the test of academic attitude. One will never win in the exam room. But keeping the arguments well and managing good manner and nice attitude will grant one a successful trial. The exam was done.
Not until I finished returning the laptop and the cables, did the lads all came to the room and congratulated. I couldn’t hope for another happiness other than that glorious time. But one thing they surely would say was: “TRAKTIR!”