Q : Oedipus Rex –A Victim of Fate or his Own Will ?
The play Oedipus by Sophocles is a play whose focus is the interplay between fate and free will. The story basically goes like this: Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother as he learned from the Oracle at Delphi. So, Oedipus does everything to escape-he runs from his own land and starts his life over. However, Oedipus is a character that clearly demonstrates that no matter how much free will men assert, fate has already written the events of one's life. Oedipus himself does everything to avoid the various prophecies made about him, but in the end, is a victim of fate. The first example of fate is that Oedipus sends Creon to the temple of Apollo to find out how to get rid of the plague of Thebes. This is how he learns of his own fate as well. "I sent Meoceus son of Creon , Jocasta's brother, to Apollo, that he might learn there by what act or word I could save this city" (70-74). Creon then sends for Tiresius. Against his will and after much discussion, he reveals the fate of Oedipus. He tells Oedipus that he is the murderer of the king and that by the end of the day, he will become a blind beggar and he will find out that he is both the son and husband of his own wife, and the brother and father to his own children. As Tiresias says, "I say you are the murderer of the king whose murderer you seek" (362). Again Tiresias says, "I say that with those you love best you live in foulest shame unconsciously and do not see where you are in calamity" (366-368). He is telling Oedipus of his fate. Oedipus cannot accept his fate even at this point. Oedipus makes fun of Tiresias for being blind and Tiresias says, "You have your eyes but see not where you are in sin, nor where you live, nor whom you live with" (413). Oedipus is clearly shown his own fate, not that he believes it. After he learns this he takes his own journey and learns the same thing. Oedipus himself took a trip to the Oracle of Delphi...
Cited: Oedipus the King. Translated by David Grene 1954.
Oedipus will fulfill the prophecy delivered by the oracle before his birth. He tries to avoid his fate and believes that he has outsmarted the gods by leaving Corinth. He obviously believes in the concept of predestination but refuses to obey it himself. Like Laius and Jocasta, who tried to kill him after his birth, he sought ways to escape his horrible destiny. The chorus takes the side of the gods and preaches their power throughout the play, only deviating from this position once. "But if any man comes striding, high and mighty/in all he says and does,/"¦let a rough doom tear him down" (Bernstein, pp. 56-79). The mortal who ignores the laws of the Universe exhibits hubris and is doomed to fail. If Oedipus manages to avoid the prophecy he will diminish belief in the power of the gods. A paradox surfaces when the chorus fears he may prove the gods wrong, But at the same time fears that the prophecies not prove to be true. Although Oedipus shuns the idea of fate and the lack of free will, it is evident that he believes in and is fearful of them. After hearing rumors that he was not "his father 's son" (Bernstein, pp. 56-79), Oedipus turns to the oracle and discovers that he will someday kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus flees in a desperate attempt to escape, proving that he believes in fate. If he had control, he would have no reason to run. During his travels, Oedipus meets with a "brace of colts/drawing a wagon" (Bernstein, pp. 56-79), and after being thrust off the road he reacts violently and kills all but one man. Oedipus fled because he was afraid he would fulfill the prophecy. His actions support the argument that free will does exist. He knew what was prophesized yet still acted in rage and Committed murder rather than trying to avoid it. Oedipus cannot be held responsible for the life set out for him by the gods. He can, however, be accused of having too much pride, which inevitably leads to his own downfall. Perhaps he could not have prevented the actual patricide and smarmy incest, but he could have allowed himself to realize his identity. Oedipus is merely an unfortunate victim of circumstance. He possesses the ability to make his own decisions within the structure created by the gods. Oedipus displayed free will by killing Laius at the crossroads .
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