Death of a Salesman & Oedipus the King

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An overwhelming desire for personal contentment and unprecedented reputation can often result in a sickly twisted distortion of reality. In Sophocles' Oedipus the King, a man well-known for his intellect and wisdom finds himself blind to the truth of h life and his parentage. Arthur Miller's play, The Death of a Salesman, tells of a tragic character so wrapped up in his delusional world that reality and illusion fuse causing an internal explosion that leads to his undoing. Each play enacts the strugg of a man attempting to come to grips with his harsh reality and leaving behind his comfortable fantasy world. In the end, no man can escape the truth no matter how hard he may fight. In choosing the fragility of illusion over the stability of reality, th characters meet their inevitable downfall.

At the moment of his birth, Oedipus receives a prophecy from the Delphic Oracle which states his destiny, "to grow up to murder his father and marry his mother (Sophocles 22)." Shocked and dismayed by this horrific prophecy, his parents King Laius and een Jocasta of Thebes try to elude this inevitable curse by turning the infant over to a loyal servant, a Theban shepherd, to take Oedipus to "a woody dell of Cithaeron" to be killed (63). After riveting his ankles together and leaving him to die of the lements, the old shepherd has a change of heart and hands the child over to a traveling shepherd from Corinth to take back to the childless King Polybus and Queen Merope to raise as their own son. For the next twenty years, Laius and Jocasta rule in The s believing their son to be "done away with (69)." Unfortunately, Hera sends a drought associated with a sphinx to bedevil Thebes. A desperate Laius travels back to the Delphic Oracle for a reading while, in Corinth, Oedipus grows to manhood believing P ybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth, to be his real parents. Soon, he too learns of his dreadful fate and seeking to avoid it, he flees Corinth. As fate would have it, along the road, Oedipus crosses Laius' path in a chance meeting and after arly being "jostled off the road" by Laius, feels "infurious and land[s] him a blow" that kills him, unwittingly fulfilling the first half of the prophecy (54). Traveling on to Thebes, Oedipus saves the city from the drought by solving the riddle of the phinx. Declared the new King of Thebes, he marries the widowed Queen Jocasta - his mother, unknowingly fulfilling the second half of the prophecy. For the next two decades, Oedipus rules successfully in Thebes until Hera sends a second drought to plague he city. After sending his brother-in-law, Creon, back to the Delphic oracle for a reading, Oedipus learns that the second drought will not be lifted until the city of Thebes "discovers and banishes the just blood of Lauis' assassin (26)." An over-confi nt, yet unknowing King Oedipus takes charge of the investigation, and in doing so, condemns himself.

From the beginning of this unfortunate play Oedipus the King, Oedipus takes many actions and makes many choices leading to his own downfall. He could have endured the plague, but out of "compassion for his suffering people," he has Creon go to Delphi ( ). When he learns of Apollo's word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he condemns the murderer saying he will be "cut off from every fellowship of speech and contact, sacrifice and sacrament...t ust out of every home, the very picture of pestilence" and in doing so, unknowingly curses himself (32). Oedipus chooses to ignore multiple warnings of the truth of his life and parentage. He chooses to ignore the ruinous prophecy of his "destiny to mur r his father and marry his mother" because he feels he can escape the prophecy of the gods (22). Oedipus attempts to defy the gods by fleeing his homeland, Corinth, but instead flings himself directly into the hands of fate. Oedipus ignores another very nlightening warning of truth in...
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