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Fate vs. Free Will: Oedipus Rex Essay

Oedipus’ ignorance, disrespect, and unending search for the truth ultimately contribute to his free willing destruction of life and the completion of prophecy. Fate is the theory that our lives are “predetermined” for us, and the concept that states that humans have the choice to choose what decisions they make in life is know as free will. Society tends to generally feel that free will is the presiding element in their lives.

It is important to distinguish reality from figment ideas like the belief that your life is “controlled by fate”; we live in a world where fantasies do not exist and truth surrounds us everyday. Ignoring this makes you ignorant to the truth; blind to reality and open to fanciful theories-fate-that close your existence to the real world. Free will is definitely the controlling factor in uncovering the truth about Oedipus’ prophecy. He governs all the choices and many obstacles he undergoes alone, including:

Oedipus fleeing from Corinth, the riddle being solved, the refusal to quit the search for truth and the supposed fated events, like the death of his father, the marriage to his mother, and the encounter with the drunken man.

After Tiresias, a man who foreshadows the future, informs Oedipus what lies ahead he flees from Corinth. “When I heard this, and in the days that followed I would measure from the stars the whereabouts of Corinth-yes, I fled to somewhere where I should not see fulfilled the infamies told in that dreadful oracle” (Sophocles 792-793). If we as humans were told a fate that would ruin our lives, we would all free willingly try to hide from it. It was not fate that led him to flee from Corinth but the human instinct to hide from the truth.

Another major event leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy is when Oedipus solves the riddle in Thebes. The Sphinx asks Oedipus, “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening? ” He solves the riddle answering, “That man crawls on all fours in infancy, walks upright on two legs in adulthood, and uses a cane as a third leg in old age. ” Technically Oedipus does not have to solve the riddle; he can turn around and travel elsewhere, but he willingly solves it. Oedipus refuses to stop looking for the truth that Jocasta and Lauis

were Oedipus’ parents when Jocasta, his wife, told him to. “Stop in the name of god, if you love your own life, call off this search! My suffering is enough. Listen to me” (Sophocles, Line1603-1605). Oedipus replied, “Listen to you? No more. I must know it all, I must see the truth at last” (Sophocles, Line 1169-1170). It was Oedipus’ freewill to continue the search of truth, despite the upcoming damage that is to come. Oedipus and those around him consider “fate” the source of Oedipus’ problems. A supposed fated event that occurred is when Oedipus states, “The driver, the old man himself, tried to push me off the road.

In anger I struck the driver as he tried to crowd me off. When the old man saw me coming past the wheels he aimed at my head with a two-pronged goad, and hit me. I paid him back in full, with interest: in no time at all he was hit by the stick I held in my hand and rolled backwards from the center of the wagon. I killed the lot of them” (Sophocles, Lines 810-820) In the prophecy he was “fated” to kill his father, but clearly it is Oedipus’ decision to defend himself against the man who attacked him; it’s either life or death and death is not an option for him.

The next is the marriage to his mother; marriage is the reward for solving the Sphinx’s riddle. Again, Oedipus could have rejected this prize from the town of Thebes but he voluntarily accepts to marry Jocasta. In the story Oedipus comes across a drunken man who accuses him of not having real parents; Oedipus chooses to listen to this man, which supposedly is “fate”. A drunken man does not always have the credibility of truthfulness so Oedipus did not have to listen to him, but he freely chose to take note of the things he said to him.

In the end it was Oedipus’ ignorance, disrespect, and unending search for the truth that ultimately contributes to his free willing destruction and fulfillment of prophecy. He has plenty of opportunities to make better choices but he is “blind” to those opportunities because of his flaws and stubbornness. Fate separates us from reality and blinds us from the truth. The truth can be a positive aspect in our lives; we learn from mistakes and it is what fuels our growth. We must all learn that we have the choice to control our own being and the decisions in them–humankind must open their eyes and take control.


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