Oedipus' Ruin

This essay Oedipus' Ruin has a total of 879 words and 5 pages.


Oedipus\' Ruin
Sophocles is perhaps one of the greatest tragedians ever. Sophocles said that a
man should never consider himself fortunate unless he can look back on his life
and remember that life without pain. For Oedipus Rex, looking back is impossible
to do without pain. This pain stems from his prideful life. Oedipus is aware
that he alone is responsible for his actions. Oedipus freely chooses to pursue
and accept his own life\'s destruction. Even though fate victimizes Oedipus, he
is a tragic figure since his own heroic qualities, his loyalty to Thebes, and
his fidelity to the truth ruin him. Oedipus’ pride, strung from his own heroic
qualities, is one factor that ruined him. A hero prizes above all else his honor
and the excellence of his life. When his honor is at stake, all other
considerations become irrelevant. The hero "valued strength and skill, courage
and determination, for these attributes enabled the person who possessed them to
achieve glory and honor, both in his lifetime and after he died" (Rosenburg

38). Oedipus was certainly a hero who was exceptionally intelligent though one
can argue that killing four men at Phokis single-handedly more than qualified
him as a physical force of reckoning. He obviously knew his heroic status when
he greeted the supplicating citizens of Thebes before the palace doors saying,

"I would not have you speak through messengers, and therefore I have come
myself to hear you - I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name"(Sophocles 1088).

Oedipus is "guilty of Hubris- that is, that he is too sure of himself, too
confident in his own powers [and] a little undermindful of the gods" (Brooks

573). Oedipus, a hero of superior intelligence, also displays this
uncompromising attitude in his fealty to Thebes. Oedipus\' loyalty to Thebes is
another factor that led to the tragic figure\'s ruin. Aristotle explains that a
tragic character is just and good, but his misfortune is brought about not by
wickedness or depravity but by error, pride, or frailty. Oedipus fits this
description perfectly. "The story of Oedipus fascinates us because of the
spectacle of a man freely choosing, from the highest motives, a series of
actions which lead to his ruin." (Dodds 23). Oedipus could leave the city
of Thebes and let the plague take its course "but pity for the sufferings
of his people compelled him to consult Delphi" (Dodds 23). When Apollo\'s
word comes back, he could leave the murder of Laius uninvestigated, but pride
and justice cause him to act. Oedipus can not let a murder investigation go by
without solving the riddle of who killed King Laius because his pride overpowers
him. Oedipus\' pride reveals itself again in his loyalty to the truth. Oedipus\'
constant struggle to discover the truth for the sake of his people ruined him
most in the end. Even though he is warned many times to stop seeking the truth,
he keeps on searching. Oedipus has to choose between his doom and an alternative
"which if accepted would betray the hero\'s own conception of himself, his
rights, his duties," but in the end the hero "refused to yield; he
remains true to himself, to his physis" (Knox 8). Therefore, one can see

Oedipus\' need to uncover the truth about Laius and then about himself as proof
of his commitment to uphold his own nature, pride. Oedipus\' quest for the truth
fits his self image as "a man of action," "the revealer of
truth," and the "solver of riddles"(Knox 28). He cannot live with
a lie, and therefore must learn the truth behind the illusion he has lived for
so long. Teiresias, Iokaste, and the herdsman all try to stop Oedipus, but he
must read the last riddle, that of his own life. As the truth unfolds, the
people of Thebes see Oedipus "as prideful and overweening," and they
"call on Zeus to correct his pride" (Sewall 36). The hero\'s conscious
choice to pursue and accept his doom makes him a tragic figure. Oedipus Rex
single-handedly ruined his own life through his overweening pride. Oedipus\'
pride as a hero, a loyal King, and a truth seeker turned him into a tragic
figure. He is a victim of fate, but not a puppet because he freely sought his
doom though warned not to pursue it. Fate may have determined his past actions,
but what he did at Thebes he did as a free individual. It was his own choice to
kill the men at Phokis, his own choice to seek an answer to heal his

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