Just as in real life, you get to know the characters in a piece of literature by their words, their actions, and of course, by the words of others. This method of acquainting the reader with a character is called characterization. Direct characterization portrays a character through his or her own words, whereas indirect characterization illustrates a character through the author's or other characters' words. Direct and indirect characterization allow us to see not only each character's obvious side, but their hidden side too, that is not always as easily seen. In the play Oedipus Rex, the three main characters Oedipus, Teiresias, and Iokaste are introduced to us through direct and indirect characterization, where we learn about each character's positive as well as negative traits.
Oedipus, the main character in the story, and the King of Thebes, has many different traits. His positive qualities are shown to the reader by both direct and indirect characterization. We know he is clever and good at solving riddles. In the story there are several references to his solving of the Riddle of the Sphinx, an example of direct characterization. One example is when the priest says "You saved us from the Sphinx, that flinty singer, and the tribute we paid to her so long, yet you were never better informed than we, nor could we teach you: a god's touch, it seems, enabled you to help us." At another time in the story, Teiresias says "You were a great man once at solving riddles." Another quality of Oedipus, portrayed to us through indirect characterization, is that of empathy. He feels the cities sufferings are also his when he says "Each of you suffers in himself alone his anguish, not another's, but my spirit groans, for myself, for you." A third positive trait is that he is a well-respected and good leader, again shown through indirect characterization. The priest says various things that indicate this, such as "Great Oedipus, O Powerful King of Thebes!" and "Therefore,...
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