Oedipus Essay, Research Paper
The story of Oedipus Rex is a classic example of a tragic hero. Oedipus is a hero who actively plays a large role in his own demise. This paper will take a look at how Oedipus Rex starred in his own demise, and what character flaws caused him to do so. It will also look at how the theme of the story (the battle of free will versus faith) may have been the biggest reason for Oedipus?s self-destruction. And finally, it will examine the possibility that Oedipus was not all responsible for the outcome that he received, and the possibility that he was only partly to be blamed.
To understand why and how Oedipus Rex played a role in his own downfall, we must try to understand the character or person that was Oedipus Rex. We can see that Oedipus Rex is a very stubborn person and he lets his pride and his temper get in the way of his better judgment. A good example of this is when he finds out from the oracle that his destiny will lead him to kill his own father (King Laios), become a king, and marry his own mother, Queen Iocaste?. What probably made this bad situation worse was the fact that Oedipus did not even know who his real father and mother were and he did not find out that Polybos, (the man who raised him) was not really his father until after he had killed his real father.
After Oedipus hears that fate would have him end up killing his own father, he decides to run away and get out of town. He figured that since he was supposed to kill his father and marry his mother, he would leave his home, so that he would be far away from Polybos and his mother. What Oedipus did not realize is that the oracle was not talking about Polybos; it was talking about his real father. This is where we can first argue that Oedipus is the victim, but not of his own accord. He did not even know that he was given away as a baby and thus he figured that the oracle referred to Ploybos when it mentioned his father. So, with out giving too much thought to it, he gets up and leaves, not knowing that in his doing so, he would actually end up closer to his real parents, and thus, would actually be taking the first step towards fulfilling the prophecy of the oracle. It is easy to see, after the fact, that had Oedipus not overreacted and run away form his home, he have never killed his father, he would have never became king, and would not have married his mother. With this act (Oedipus leaving his home), we see that Oedipus lacks faith in himself, and that he feels that he must take action on his own. Here we see that central theme, conflict versus free will.
As stated earlier, the conflict between faith and free will leads Oedipus Rex to his own demise. This is the theme of the story. Although at the time of Oedipus, the general belief was that you could not change you fate, Oedipus does not believe in the idea of predestination. He does not believe that the gods had already willed his destiny. Oedipus plays a very active role in his life and believes in free will. This is also where we see one of the flaws in his character flaws, pride come in. Oedipus had too much pride; he was not too great of a person to end up killing his father and marrying his mother, the queen. Although he does not come right out and say it, and it is not mentioned word for word in the story, we can see that Oedipus provably feels that only a low person would do such terrible things to his parents, and that if he tried hard enough, he could change his own fate for the better, regardless of what the gods had planned.
Up until the point that Oedipus Rex finds out that he killed his biological father, he had assumed that his father was King Polybos, the man who raised him. Not knowing that Polybos was not his real father, Oedipus thinks that the oracle prophesized that he would kill Polybos.
Even after Oedipus fulfills the oracle, he does not know that he has done it. When a messenger (the same messenger that brought Oedipus to King Polybos) comes to tell Oedipus that King Ploybos died of a sickness, Oedipus has already killed his biological father, has become a king, and has married his mother, Iocaste?. Upon hearing the news that the man who raised him (Polybos) has died, Oedipus rejoices with his queen, not because he wanted the man to die, but because he thought this proved that the oracle did not come true. This was like a huge weight lifted off of him. But the messenger continued, on telling Oedipus that King Polybos was not his real father, but just a man who loved him because he had no sons of his own. When Oedipus learns from the messenger that Polybos was not his real father he asks a series of questions to a shepherd that is brought in; the shepherd who handed an infant Oedipus over to the messenger. This questioning greatly upsets Queen Iocaste?, because she knew of the prophecy before hand, and she knows that it has come true. It was the very reason that she gave Oedipus away. But because she loved Oedipus so much, she did not want him to know that the oracle had come true. She knew that it would devastate him and she could not bear to see that happen. She understood that Oedipus would soon find out the truth and because she could not handle that , she killed herself.