Ismene is Antigone’s older sister, and she serves as a foil character for her throughout the play. Conventionally beautiful and full of life, Ismene believes in following whatever rules appear before her. This perspective, which enables her to maintain her comfortable social status, puts her directly at odds with Antigone’s goal of illegally burying their brother, Polynices. In their first scene together, Ismene attempts to convince her sister that abiding by Creon’s laws is the smart and responsible thing to do, an argument which she pursues rather forcefully. Unlike Sophocles’s Ismene, a girl who comes across as helpless and paralyzed by fear, Anouilh’s Ismene asserts her opinions more directly in an attempt to serve as a voice of reason. She admittedly fears death, but she ultimately argues that they, as girls, are in no position to challenge Creon’s authority. Notions of femininity become another source of tension between the sisters as Antigone rejects the conventions of girlhood which Ismene embraces.   

Once Creon has vowed to put Antigone to death for disobeying his orders, Ismene experiences a change of heart and wants to follow her sister’s path. This shift in her perspective, however, comes too late as Antigone refuses to let her get involved. The sisters argue again over how to resolve the conflict that they find themselves in, and this reaction emphasizes that not even a death sentence can fully reconcile the differences between them. Although Ismene may not be able to convince Antigone to let her follow her in death, her newfound willingness to sacrifice herself reveals the power of her sister’s act of rebellion. Antigone’s determination to resist the will of an authority figure like Creon inspires others to do the same. Regardless of Ismene’s internal motivation for wanting to die, her change in perspective serves as a key moment in the fight against Creon’s injustice.