Oedipus And Fate Essay, Research Paper
To what extent is Oedipus responsible for his own fate? Before we approach this complex question inductively, we are at first obliged to contemplate what definitions and assumptions are being made. This essay, perhaps more so than others, requires a more extensive look at this aspect of the question, because of the sheer variety of possible responses. However, I now have reduced them to three possibilities. Firstly, we could make the assumption that perhaps as destiny controls all fates, then Oedipus’ character was created long before he was conceived. On the other hand, we could also say that perhaps Oedipus’ horrific fate came about because of his character and fate. The final possibility is that everything is inevitable – therefore no one ever has had any say in their own fate, let alone Oedipus. In this essay I would like to discuss these three ideas, and perhaps draw a conclusion at the end on which I feel to be the most valid. The first solution to this question, as I said earlier, is the idea that destiny makes character. As destiny supposedly in the Greek mindset maps out all events before they occur, we can today assume with this logic that perhaps the components that “built” Oedipus’ character were caused by fate. We know today that character is determined by biological factors and experience. These biological factors would have been determined by how well he was fed, how well he developed, his genes etcetera. The experience would have also been determined by the pre-destined master plan of Fate. Thus it is possible to argue that Oedipus, as components of his character and mind, was entirely shaped by fate and therefore cannot be held responsible for what he has done, as he has no control over his actions. But the premises that these arguments are based on are fundamentally flawed. In my opinion, fate does not exist. Yet, as this is a personal choice analogous to religious belief in the sense that there can be no definitive argument for or against, we cannot rationally conclude decisively either way. Yet if would be interesting to note that as this play is constructed along the lines of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, the way in which the play is constructed would try to convey the sentiment that fate was the overriding factor and thus could be a valid basis for the argument just outlined. But if we were to look at the play and interpret it according to our own value judgement system, then we could just as easily reject this premise. It all depends on how we would like to approach the play. And as there is no definitive, positive way of doing this, neither way can be said to be “right” or “wrong”. The next solution that I outlined to this problem was the idea that it could be a amalgamation of both destiny and character. At first this would seem to be a complete paradox, but if we extrapolate upon these ideas it should become clear. After all, how can anyone’s character have any consequence if destiny is at work? During Oedipus we see many examples of how this can be resolved. When Oedipus (unbeknown to him) meets his father on the road, he could have decided to walk away and not react. However he decided to react aggressively, and thus kills his father. But theoretically, if his character had been different, fate could have returned later and tested him in different ways, perhaps then engaging his good-natured side. When Oedipus meets the sphinx, he could have turned away, but instead his character dictates that he should be bold and face her. Thus he becomes King, and sets him on his path to incest. However, if he had acted differently, surely fate being fate, it would have “thought” of another way to trap him. In this logic the crucial difference is that fate requires him to act to actually exact the plan. Finally, I come to the last possibility. Perhaps of all the possible choices, this is the one favoured most by Aristotle. It conforms completely to his way of looking at things. This solution is the idea that we are all controlled by fate. Everything is controlled by fate. In Oedipus, if we were to accept this way of looking at things, we would come to the conclusion that the entire Athenian world is one giant chess game. It is as if everything was kick started millions of years ago, with each and every action already planned out. Then as the Gods saw the world developing around them, they decided to punish and reward those who they favoured. Here with Oedipus they have found their plaything. Conforming to the tragic human situation, a basically decent character falls through an error of action that has its origins in his own character. This is merely Aristotle’s theory of tragedy, which is what the play was based on. Personally, I would reject this solution on the basis of when we study a play or another piece of art we do not look at how or why it was made. We should approach it as something individual in its own right. If we can see the idea in the art then yes, perhaps we could accept the conclusion preordained for that piece of art. Yet when the art piece has within it values which I believe to be false, we are also free to reject the preordained solution on that premise. Finally, I would like to give my evaluation of the three methods. Essentially we are dealing with an artificial plot. These series of events do not conform to real world values, only to the vagarities of Aristotle’s mind. Thus when we look at this plot, the mechanics of it cannot be dealt with in a normal way. This is theatre. It has been crafted to look as though the fall is due to some error of action, strongly interlaced with fate. Yet despite all this, I do not feel that this is how the play has materialised. It seems to me as though Oedipus could not have stopped the actual horrific incest and patricide occurring, only the realisation of it. To me, as a non-believer in fate, nothing is due to Oedipus’ character. He seems merely unfortunate, a victim of superstition. Yet to those of you who accept fate, then perhaps this could be the explanation. It is a completely subjective decision, based on a personal interpretation. This is something that I cannot decide. Thus I leave the decision open, but my decision closed. Neither is right, and neither is wrong.