Oedipus Essay Research Paper Oedipus gained the

Oedipus Essay, Research Paper

Oedipus gained the rule of Thebes by answering

the riddle of The Sphinx. Sophocles used the riddle of The Sphinx as a

metaphor for the 3 phases of Oedipus’ life and to further characterized him as

a tragic hero. The Sphinx posed the following riddle to all who came to

obtain the rule over Thebes: “What is it that walks on 4 feet and 2 feet and 3

feet and has only one voice, when it walks on most feet it is the weakest?”

Oedipus correctly answered, “Man” and became the king of Thebes. This

riddle is a metaphor for the life of Oedipus. As a child he crawls on his hands

and knees this is the first stage of Oedipus’ life to which the Sphinx refers.

Also man is at his weakest as a small child. He depends solely on others for

his nourishment and well being. Oedipus was the child of Jocasta and King

Laius who was taken to the mountain by a shepherd to be killed so the omen

of the god Apollo that Laius’ son would kill him and lay with Jocasta would

not come true. Oedipus was at the weakest point in his life. If it has not been

for the shepherd sparing his life and giving him to Polybus to raise as his own

Oedipus would have be killed. Man walks on 2 feet shows the next stage of

his life, when he has matured. This is a metaphor for Oedipus when he

reaches adulthood and leaves Corinth to escape the oracle. Oedipus meets

up with a band of travelers and in a rage kills them. Inadvertently Oedipus

has killed his own father. Oedipus then answers the riddle of The Sphinx and

becomes king of Thebes. By becoming king of Thebes he marries Jocasta the

Queen of Thebes and his own mother. Many years later after bearing children

with Jocasta a plague kills many of the inhabitants of Thebes. Oedipus is told

by the gods to find the killer of Laius. He is very diligent in the inquiry and

finally comes to the horrible truth that he himself is the murderer. Jocasta kills

herself at the horrible realization that she has laid with her son. Oedipus puts

out his eyes, at which time he finally sees the truth. This fulfills the final part of

the Sphinx’s riddle for Oedipus will have to walk with a cane for the rest of

his life because of his blindness. This will give him the walk on 3, which man

walks with at the end of his years. The Sphinx’s riddle was used by

Sophocles to characterize Oedipus as a tragic man and as a parallel to his

life. The riddle describes the 3 stages, which Oedipus went through in his life.

Also in answering the riddle Oedipus inevitable brought about his own tragic

ending by a horrible discovery.

He still did teach a lesson and by far gave himself to something bigger than

himself. He was a very self-confident, intelligent, and strong willed man. Yet

these were the very same traits that lead to his down fall. He did not realize

before it was to late that one must be humble and take the advice and

teaching of others; even if it may seem to be impossible or not. A hero can

have all this traits and more, but with out the willingness of others to help and

guide him they are nothing. Campbell also states that a hero “can overcome

dangers.” Oedipus on more then one occasion shows that he can over came

danger, first time we see this is when he meets up with his father, who he

does not know to be his father at the time, and kills them all. The second is

when he is faced with the riddle of The Sphinx, and his very fate will be death

unless the riddle is answered correctly. He over takes The Sphinx by

answering it correctly and becoming the king of Thebes. One also can not

help what dangers he must face after he has taken his own sight. He leaves

the kingdom of Thebes never to return again, with only the cloths on his back

and a mer walking stick. Life in those times was not to easy for the seeing let

alone the blind. In belief that one characteristic of a hero is that they are noble

but not unflawed, Oedipus is one that is flawed. Believing he is or if others

believe him not to be might be another story. He is very noble and honorable

in his ways, yet his one of his flaws is the resistance that he will now let any

one help or guide him. This is very ironic considering after blinding himself he

will need to depend on the aid of a walking stick. Is flaw might not be one

that is easily fixed or even fixable, but knowing it and working with or around

it is another noble deed in it’s self. He must have something in common with

the meekest of people so we can see ourselves in him. I feel that this element

of a hero is a very broad one that can have more then just one meaning and

understanding to others. In the physical sense he was just like any common

man, if he was wounded he would bleed, if something dear to him was taken

away or killed he would feel sorrow and loss, as well as wanting revenge. On

there other side of matter and looking more into it then just a physical

appearance. Oedipus never knew his real parents and for some that is a life

quest or journey the longing to find who you were created from. This does

hinder some people in respect that there is a void in that person’s life much as

in the epic of The Odyssey. Odysseus was looking for his home, there was a

void in his life much like Oedipus had the void in his to find his home/parents.

Even if it is not said aloud people still have that part of their lives missing.

Making him part with some of the most meekest people, who would give up

all there power, fame and glory just to be with there true family. Oedipus

leaves his social world more then once. First, when he is born and then given

the sentence of death, he is take to another kingdom. Is second leaving is

when he hears of the prophesy that he will kill his father and lay with his

mother. He leaves what has become to him his home and social life, making a

quest into a lager realm or social world. This also relates to the characteristic

of going into depth, distance or even height. He must travel many lands

before he comes to his new country (his original birthplace.) He also makes

another long journey after he vows never to return to Thebes ever again. This

is also very ironic he starts his life out on a journey and he also ends it with a

journey. He is confronted with an obstacle with which will challenge his

mental strength. Before he can become king of Thebes or even enter the

kingdom he must answer a riddle by The Sphinx or he will be killed. He

does, showing his mental endurance and nobility to the kingdom as well as



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