Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex :

In many plays a character has a misconception of his herself and/or his or her world. When this misconception is destroyed it can be a major turning point in the story. "Oedipus Rex" by Sophocles is one such story. In the story Oedipus has such a misconception where he thinks he has a good life, but really his life is morally wrong. This contributes to the theme or themes of the play when they serve as the defining climax of the story. When the misconception is stopped Oedipus sees that you cannot escape or change your past, but you can still do great things even if you have been evil or immoral in your life.

When Oedipus was born it was prophesied that he would kill his father and marry his mother. His father naturally feared this and told a Shepard to take the boy out and kill him when he was still a child. The kind old Shepard could not bring himself to kill an innocent little boy so he gave him to a passing messenger to take as his own. When Oedipus was older he learned of this prophecy and left home because he loved his foster father who he believed to be his real father. A while after he ran away traveling down a road when he saw a coach coming. It contained his true father, King Laios of Thebes and his bodyguards. When they almost ran him over Oedipus attacked them killing the bodyguards and his father, thinking that they were highway bandits, and by doing so he unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy. When he realizes this he is devastated. This really contributes to the theme that you cannot escape your past. The fact that he killed a king and his father no less is a major factor in his exile later in the story.

When he discovers that King Laios was his real father he sees that by not running away that he could have prevented this whole catastrophe. This just goes to show that hindsight is always 20 / 20. Oedipus saw this and realized his mistake. He realized that he cannot go back and change his past is also a big theme of the story.

This fact too plays a big part in his mental breakdown later in the story. After he kills his father he is walks further down the road when he is accosted by the Sphinx who tells him that if he cannot answer her riddle correctly that she will kill him. He however does succeed in solving her riddle and she kills herself out of fury. When word gets out the he was the one who caused the death of the Sphinx the people of Thebes ( whose king he just recently killed ) adopt him as their new king, thanking that their real king was killed by bandits and give him the queen, Queen Jocasta ( his mother ) for his bride. They lived happily for many years and had four children. When Oedipus learns of the heinous crime he has committed he nearly dies. Jocasta upon learning that she had been married to her son hangs herself and when Oedipus sees her body dangling he cuts her down and stabs out his eyes with her brooch. Having disgraced his country he is banished and he and his daughter Antigone leave Thebes. He later dies in exile at a shrine of Apollo in Colonus. Before he leaves Thebes however he states that he will do great things before he dies the horrible death he believes is reserved for him. He speaks with great hubris in the end of the play when he tells Creon to care for his daughters and tells of the things he will do before he dies. This, being able to still accomplish great things even after doing such horrendous crimes such as incest and regicide.

Realization that you cannot change or escape your past and that you can still achieve great things even after committing awful crimes in your life are all the things that Oedipus sees after his misconception of his entire life is destroyed and he sees the things he could have prevented. When you look back on your life and see something that brought about bad consequences you most often see how you could have easily avoided the usually small detail that caused the whole ordeal. That is usually a great learning experience for you.

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