Donnie Darko vs. Oedipus Rex

Topics: Donnie Darko, Time, Richard Kelly Pages: 6 (2272 words) Published: April 26, 2011
Greek tragedies were often seen as the foundation to literature not only for the Greeks but also on a universal scale as well. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex was one of the more infamous tales because of its provocative and unorthodox nature. The tragedy features a man on a quest to prevent the events of his prophesized life from coming to fruition. The key components of fate, destiny and time can be paralleled to the cult classic film Donnie Darko. In the movie, Donnie suffers from predictions of the future in his own variation of time travel, as a repercussion he has been “chosen” to rectify the past in order to preserve what is to come. Between the two pieces of text, destiny and fate greatly affect the outcome for both of the tragically flawed characters. In Oedipus Rex, the titular character is ill-fated right from birth after his life was prophesied as being incestuous and macabre. A key component in all tragedies is kismet which connects to the inevitability of certain destinies. Oedipus was taken away from is biological parents in order to avoid the outcome in which he soon resides with his foster family. In an ironic twist of fate, he finally gets wind of his prophecy which prompts him to run away and actually cross paths with the king and queen, “it was my fate to defile my mother's bed, to bring forth to men a human family that people could not bear to look upon, to murder the father who engendered me,” (791-793). Everything was unavoidable, like the Tangent Universe that took place in Donnie Darko; Donnie deviated from his original path but still wound up fulfilling his destiny of self-sacrifice. There are a myriad of elements that make the very notion of both pieces seem wholly unrealistic but somehow the end result of each leads to heartache and desolation.

Time is a fickle and unpredictable aspect that is extremely subjective in addition to being susceptible to outside forces. In Donnie Darko, the very concept of time is so chaotic and is tampered with constantly which as a repercussion an alternate universe is created, the Tangent Universe. It can be proven that as soon as Donnie left his bedroom in the beginning that his cheating of death affected events that were meant to happen making them go askew. After a series of actions that were brought on by Frank the bunny, he finally learns that it was destined for him to die by the fallen engine. Therefore a predestination paradox was created when Donnie is sent back to October 2nd to wait for his impending demise. In actuality he didn’t disrupt the pattern of events he was only meant to learn from them. In the end, he had a moment of clarity when he watched Gretchen die right in front of his eyes. It was then that he saw a portal to the Primary Universe displaying events that would have happened. In an unconventional and mind bending way, Donnie is then transported back to October 2nd all the way from October 30th to assist in the way that life was meant to play out. Another factor of time would be time travel and this was explained by Roberta Sparrow, Grandma Death in her book The Philosophy of Time Travel. It was more than a coincidence that Frank told Donnie to look out for time traveling portals considering the fact that Dr. Monnitoff, his science teacher was discussing how it was nearly impossible to do so. When dealing with that kind of travel it brings to light other elements that play a part. From a theological standpoint, no one has the power to control future except for a god of whatever denomination that a specific person attributes their spirituality to.

Tragedy can be found within the essence of time. For Donnie he was unable to escape the future events that his death affected. The film can be compared to The Butterfly Effect in the sense that both main protagonists were the root to so much sorrow and despair. Donnie needed to learn in his Tangent that dying would be the only way to save others from their manipulated...
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