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Oedipus and Determinism Essay

One of the most famous Greek Tragedies ever told is the one of the fabled Greek King Oedipus of Thebes. The tale is a tragic one from the beginning to the end. Because of a prophecy, Oedipus was doomed by a curse from the time he was a small infant and it reached out into the generation that followed him and destroyed the lives of his children. The audience is tense because of the dramatic irony involved in the plot. There purpose of the story told by Sophocles was to tell a tale of determinism. The story shows clearly that there was nothing Oedipus could do to change the course of his life.

When Oedipus was an infant a prophet predicted that he would kill his father and marry his mother, the king and queen of Thebes. They decided to destroy the infant so that this would not take place. However, a shepherd rescued the baby and he grew not knowing about his royal birth. There was no way that an infant could have been in control of his destiny. A baby is totally dependent on the adults in his/her life and cannot help what they do. Oedipus was not in control of his parents or the shepherd. Once Oedipus is older and he kills Laius and marries Jocosta the queen.

He did have control over the murder, but still he did not realize the curse that he brought upon himself for killing his father because he did not know that Laius was his father. He is able to marry the queen because he rids Thebes of a horrible sphinx that has been torturing the citizens. Any man with the courage and the intelligence to face the sphinx would have done the same. It is human nature to save one self and others if it is possible. To marry the queen would make him ruler, and it is also human nature to want to better him/herself.

Oedipus and the queen are married for a number of years and have had four children together when he is informed of what he has done. At that point, Oedipus is in control of what he does with the information. He has been reassured by the queen that Fear? What should a man fear? It’s all chance, chance rules our lives. Not a man on earth can see a day ahead, groping through the dark. Better to live at random, best we can. And as for this marriage with your mother—have no fear. Many a man before you, in his dreams, has shared his mother’s bed. Take such things for shadows, nothing at all— Live, Oedipus, as if there’s no tomorrow! Oedipus the King, 1068-1078) Yet still he is distraught over the situation.

He then puts out both of his eyes as a punishment and dooms himself to wander as a beggar. Oedipus the King was told by Sophocles so that those who heard it would realize that determinism is what ruled people’s lives instead of free will. It is true that Oedipus could have accepted his deeds and continued to rule Thebes, but he knew the embarrassment that he would bring to himself and his kingdom. He is ruined no matter what he did. This man had no control of his life, instead it was decided for him long before he became a man.


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