Imagine being a hero, and your destiny is to kill your father and marry your mother. This is Oedipus’s fate. When he was still a baby, his parents heard of the prophecy they had a shepherd take Oedipus to Kithairon to die. There the shepherd gave the baby to another shepherd from Corinth, where Oedipus was given to the king and queen. In Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus proves himself to be a tragic hero by exhibiting the four traits of a tragic hero; goodness, superiority, tragic flaw and tragic realization. Oedipus has goodness, the first trait of a tragic hero.
Oedipus is determined to solve the problem in Thebes, and declare to Creon that “once more [he] must bring what is dark to light” (9). Oedipus is saying that he wants to do what is good for his country. He is good because he has already saved Thebes once and he wants to save Thebes again. Later, Oedipus is talking about his wife with Creon and says, “Everything that she wants she has from me“(31). Oedipus is telling Creon that he provides for his wife, not only Thebes. This shows goodness because he cares for his family, not only his country. Oedipus’s goodness may help him now, but his superiority may not help him.
Oedipus’ second trait is superiority. The priest proclaimed “Great Oedipus O powerful King of Thebes! (4)”. The priest is saying that Oedipus is basically one of the best kings Thebes ever had. This shows that Oedipus is superior because people think highly of him. Oedipus asked Teiresias to come to him to help solve the problem. Teiresias is hinting that Oedipus killed Lais, Oedipus got mad at him, so Oedipus starts comparing himself to Teiresias, “wealth, power, craft of statesmanship, kingly position, everywhere admired” (21), unlike Teiresias. Oedipus is saying that he is better than the rest, since he is king. This proves that Oedipus prides himself and thinks he is better than the people in his country. Superiority is something everyone should have, even heroes; but some also have flaws.
Oedipus has hubris, which is his tragic flaw and it led him to his end. Oedipus thinks “Creon, whom [he] trusted, Creon [his] friend, for this power Creon desires on secret to destroy [him]” (21), when Teiresias told him about Laios’ death. Here Oedipus is accusing Creon of trying to destroy his power. This shows his pride because he is blinded by his arrogance and can’t see that it’s his fault. When pride still blinded Oedipus, he would keep on asking questions about his birth, he’d tell his wife of “Go on of you, and bring the shepherd here” (57). Oedipus needs the shepherd that could help find out more about his birth. This explains his pride because he keeps asking questions and still can’t see the answer while Iocosta already found out what really happened. His flaw that blinded him and led him to realize something, he was wrong the entire time.
The final trait Oedipus has is tragic realization. When Oedipus realized what was happening and that he was the one to blame, he told everybody for the last time “O Light, may I look on you the last time! I Oedipus, Oedipus, damned in his birth, in his marriage, damned, damned in the blood he shed with his own hand” (64)! Oedipus realized that he was wrong the whole time and that he was damned in his birth. This shows that even though he was a hero, his pride was there more that it should have been and it made him fall hard.
“No more, no more shall you look on the misery of my own doing! Too long have you known the faces of those whom I should never have seen. Too long been blind to those for whom I was searching” (69). These were Oedipus’s last words. He was looking for a sword and when he saw Iocasta dead, he took her brooches and poked his eye out, because it was a greater suffering than just death. As you can see, Oedipus realized everything he had done and he had to punish himself.
You can see that even though Oedipus was a hero, his pride ate his soul more than it should have and it caused himself to poke out his eyes. So you know that Oedipus has the four traits of a tragic hero. Now think about your flaw. Does it make you fall, or you can’t see what’s right in front of you because you are too blind to see it? So don’t be like Oedipus, don’t let superiority and tragic flaw lead you to defeat.