Oedipus Rex and the concept of Destiny
Oedipus Rex was written during the classical era when Greek Mythology was the topic of concentration, and thus several authors wrote their literary works based on Greek Mythology. Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex, which revolves around a Greek and a Roman concept of destiny whereby the three goddesses of fate already determine man’s fate. Thus, man has no control over the path his life leads him. Critics also believe that it is a man’s action that leads him to a certain fate. However, the debate has a broad scope, and several scholars have expressed their views on the concept of destiny by considering Oedipus as a villain instead of a hero. Critics believe that Oedipus was the master of his own fate, and it was by his own action that he was to meet a terrible fate.
But what exactly is the case, and with what evidences can we analyze that Oedipus was or was not the master of his own fate?
As far as my understanding is concerned, I would not consider Oedipus, the master of his own destiny. My understanding is based on references from the drama that I would quote here and explain what led to my views.
First of all, Sophocles himself was a follower of the Greek religion. As mentioned above, the Greeks believed in the concept of destiny predetermined by the three goddesses of fate. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex reflects his religious views towards destiny.
Secondly, one reads through Oedipus’s journey on analyzing the drama, who had no idea of what the three goddesses of fate had planned for him. As soon as he was born, his father, King Laius, was informed by an oracle that his boy would one day become the reason for his murder and would, later on, marry his mother. Laius’s attempt to get rid of the boy was the initiation of his own doom. However, he had no idea how his action would ultimately return to him in the form of a cruel murder. One cannot accuse his action of the reason for his fate as what he intended was completely the opposite of what was planned.
Also, Jocasta handed over Oedipus to a slave to kill him. Being a mother, Jocasta had her love for her son, which restricted her from doing any harm to Oedipus. The slave was of a similar nature as well. Thus, Oedipus was let to live a life with a shepherd who found him. Jocasta’s love for Oedipus could also not be considered as her fault. This is because her kind, motherly nature was itself a god-given gift that did not allow her to be cruel to her child.
As Oedipus becomes older, he learns from an oracle that he is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus believed that he was the son of Polybus, and intending to save his parents from such a fate; he left Corinth. Oedipus’s decision to leave Corinth was opposite to the fate that was planned for him. However, he had no idea that he was marching towards where he never wished to be. The human subconscious comes into action and makes him choose between the most obvious solutions available. Similarly, Oedipus’s limited brainpower made him realize that going far away from his parents is the solution to their safety.
A long time had passed since Laius had gotten rid of Oedipus. He never expected to see him again, which is why he used his staff to move aside a gentleman (Oedipus) walking by on the way. In Greek mythology, wrath or anger is considered among the 7 deadly sins, and Oedipus got furious over Laius’s behavior towards him. He killed Laius and all of his servants, thus unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy.
Later he defeated the Sphinx and married, Jocasta who happened to be his mother and the queen of Thebes. The prophecy was fulfilled, and Oedipus never knew until a long time after.
We may consider the fact that Oedipus was punished over his sin, i.e., Wrath. But I believe his anger was a trait in him developed either due to his upbringing or by other experiences of his life. Oedipus should have controlled his sudden urge to kill Laius, but “why couldn’t he” is another debate. So far, my analysis concludes that he was destined to kill his father and marry his mother, and he had no power to stop it. The Roman gods determined his fate, and as we interpret god, we believe him to be the most powerful and the most intelligent, and that man was never created in such a way as to outplay god’s decisions. A human may never understand god’s expedience behind a certain incident, which is why he was never created smart enough to dodge his own fate.
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