Oedipus the Play

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The Rise and Fall of Oedipus
In his novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley uses intellect as both the rise and fall of John the Savage. The ‘Savage' enters civilization and instantly becomes somewhat of a celebrity because of his knowledge of the outside world. He learns quickly of the conformist society, and is eventually disgusted by what he sees. Shortly after his arrival in civilization, John the Savage is internally torn apart by his knowledge and eventually commits suicide. Oedipus the Play is somewhat parallel to Brave New World – Sophocles also uses intellect as the hero's fatal flaw. In Oedipus the Play, there are three great polarities: fame and shame, sight and blindness, and ignorance and insight. These polarities are intertwined with Oedipus' reliance on intellect, and all contribute to his downfall. Throughout his search for identity, Oedipus experiences the great polarities that reflect his reliance on intellect as both his greatest strength and his ultimate downfall.

The first great polarity, fame and shame, is experienced by Oedipus through his defeat of the Sphinx and the tragic discovery of his cursed marriage. Shortly before Oedipus becomes king, he defeats a Sphinx that held the city of Thebes captive. Here intellect is Oedipus' greatest strength – by answering the Sphinx correctly, Oedipus gains fame, a kingdom, and a wife. Without realizing his relations to the Queen, Jocasta, Oedipus willingly marries her as a reward for defeating the Sphinx. He begins to believe "the world knows [his] fame," and believes himself invincible (l. 8). However, when Oedipus discovers his identity at the end of Oedipus the Play, his shame exposes intellect as his greatest downfall. Oedipus finally learns of his adoption, Laius, and the chaos he creates by marrying Jocasta. He truly becomes "the curse, the corruption of the land," when he gains knowledge of his identity (l. 401). In this case, intellect and Oedipus' shame cause him to blind...
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