Apr 28, 2020 in Analysis

Oedipus the King

Sophocles, like, other authors, use his art Oedipus the King to highlight the lifestyle that goes on in Thebes, Greek. The author approaches the concept from the point of leadership to indicate the lack of free will in leaders. As a result, Sophocles uses Oedipus the King as the protagonist who stands the test of time. The story also addresses the concept of destiny and free will in the land where gods determine people's fates. Apparently, Oedipus the King has many grounds of proof that it has stood the test of time, though partially. Many people have the desire to perform their duties at their own will. However, the world is full of forces that do not allow us to do exactly that. One must ask the question concerning the acceptability of the aftermath of his or her actions. The story tends to inform us of the forces that exist behind these plans. There are the powerful groups in the society who are likely to question such actions. However, we tend to cherish the freedom that makes us to follow our desires and account to ourselves.   Destiny and free will are two factors that appear to contradict each other.  Even though not everyone has faced the circumstances surrounding Oedipus, it is true that life needs decision-making at some point. People do require situations where they have the free will to decide their fate. Despite the trying moments and the bounding norms of the gods, Sophocles shows that the Greece has a sense of free will. For instance, Jocasta advises Oedipus to ignore the prophecy since they do not base on true premises. More so, the point shows the people's attempt to liberate themselves from the destiny and embrace the free will. The move contravenes the belief in the Ancient Greek that the gods determine the human destiny. However, not all people have the sense of defying the gods' instructions in Greek. Therefore, the paper explores the conflicting conditions that exist between the people's demand for free will and the gods' claim for destiny. 


Certainly, one can desire to understand the Oedipus character and the destiny that exists in the story. In most of his encounters including the killing of Laius and marrying his mother, there is the feeling that his character remains the main contributor. In every tragic flaw that befalls Oedipus, one identifies a strong force within him that dictates the outcome. Oedipus has persistent and unrelenting courageous traits that land him into trouble.  When Creon reveals to him Delphi's information regarding the raging plague in Thebes, Oedipus decides to pursue the murderer of King Laius. Ironically, Oedipus curses the murderer without understanding that he is the one who killed the king. His determination makes him to consult prophet Tiresias who confirms to have the answer to his question. At this incident, one notices that it Oedipus curiosity that instigates the trouble. 

…I’ll be a traitor

if I do not do all the god makes clear” (162/88-89).

As if it is not enough, he uses the response to implicate Creon into matter and calls for his execution. The move introduces Oedipus' new character of being too angry and judgmental. He becomes irrational in concluding that Creon paid the prophet for his sentiments and on the decision to execute him. 

Moreover, the Oedipus insatiable need to seek and reveal the truth regarding the death of Laius explains his destiny. One can notice that Oedipus' quest goes beyond identifying who killed the king. He demands to reveal executed the murder to salvage Thebes from ravaging. The messenger's information concerning the death of Polybus appears to relieve the King. At last, Oedipus disregards the prophecy as falls. However, when the messenger reveals that Polybus is not his biological father, the curiosity to establish Laius' murderer ensues. It is at this point that Jocasta confirms Oedipus as her son and attempts to bar him from identifying the truth. Oedipus insists on knowing the truth and, as a result, his mother dies and he gouges out his eyes.

Even though one can blame all these actions on Oedipus' character, it is important to question his extent of free will. Knox in his analogy states that “If through no fault of his own the hero is crushed by a bulldozer in Act II, we are not impressed…”  Logically, his free will is limited since most of these actions follow from the gods' prophesies. However, Oedipus also has freedom since he decides to follow the death and even leaves Corinth to avoid fulfilling the destiny. Finally, many circumstances show that Oedipus is liable for his fate. For instance, his curiosity lands him to the problems he encounters. He does not listen to any piece of advice and seeking truth blinds him. Oedipus also remains responsible for the gouging his eyes at the end of the story. 

Furthermore, Oedipus the King reveals the contradictory nature of destiny versus free will. In many circumstances, it appears that even Oedipus fails to understand the cause of his actions. Moreover, we can also find it difficult to present the subtle nuances of destiny and free will. Apparently, many people prefer operating under a free environment with no controlling powers of the divinity. Oedipus remains no exception regarding this observation following his attempts to evade what fate holds for him. 

At some point, Oedipus leaves Corinth with the aim of freeing himself from the divine powers. One would quickly conclude that this is an attempt to exercise the free will.  The protagonist disregards the drunkard's information that Polybus is not his father, a work that would have saved him from the divine powers. The most disturbing situation is that the Oracle had full information that Polybus and Merope are not Oedipus parents but failed to disclose. The latter observation proves more of the truth than the former. However, little does Oedipus understand that he is destined to fulfill the divine power. It while on his way that Oedipus encounters the quarrel that leads to him killing Laius, his biological father. Through this circumstance, the prophecy has come to pass. Consequently, we remain to ask the question, can one escape from destiny? 

The solution to the free will and destiny contradiction lies in the linearity and nonlinearity of time duality nature. Linear can be altered since it flows from the past, present, and to the future. As a result, it represents the free will. On the other hand, nonlinear time cannot be altered hence representing the destiny. Therefore, we must accept that reality is twofold and avoid the notion that it is singular. 

In conclusion, Oedipus the King has partially stood the reality of time. The life that we lead is full of desire to exercise the free will. People live under the pretext that they are at liberty to decide their destiny. On one side it is true while on the other hand, it is fictional. There are other powers to decide our destiny like the case of Oedipus. Indeed, Sophocles is a great playwright. He uses his academic prowess to relay the contradiction of human demand for freedom and the underlying forces of nature. He uses his wit to present the dilemma that surrounds human life. Finally, it holds that we all share the Oedipus' struggle. Human life is full of contradiction that one cannot evade. Certain forces control our lives thereby denying us the ability to exercise the free will. Like Oedipus, many people tend to search for freedom only to realize that it is the fate to dictate their destiny.


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