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Fate Vs. Free Will In Oedipus Essay, Research Paper
FREE WILL VS. FATE IN OEDIPUS REX
The great philosopher Socrates believes that humans rule themselves with a
combination of fate and free will. In Oedipus Rex a combination of fate and free will
contribute to the destruction of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus oracle, his quest for the truth, and
his self-blinding all concur to destroy Oedipus life.
Before the play begins, Apollo ordains that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep
with his mother. Oedipus describes his fears to Jocasta when he tells her that the oracle of
Delphi says that, I should lie with my own mother, breed children from whom all men
would turn their eyes; and that I should be my father s murderer (1.2.749-51). Because
of this fear, Oedipus leaves home, only to unknowingly kill his father and set the oracle in
motion. As a result of the slaughter of King Laius and his men, Oedipus leaves only one
man alive; and that man will also contribute to Oedipus destruction. This unavoidable
fate is the key to Oedipus destruction; however, it is Oedipus relentless quest for the
truth that leads him to realize that he commits these sins.
Oedipus pursuit of the truth also contributes to his destruction. As a result of his
willing inquiry about the murderer of King Laius, the origin of Oedipus birth reveals
itself. The servant for whom Oedipus sends for reveals himself to be the shepherd who
gives away the baby of Jocasta and Laius. By the shepherd s admission he pitied the
baby (2.4.1113) and gives the baby away to another shepherd who saved him
(2.4.1115). Through the shepherd s story, Oedipus realizes that all of the prophecies are
true, and that through his exploration of the truth, he damns himself. His arrogant
self-assurance is his downfall at this point because he feels that nothing bad can happen to
him; as a result, when Oedipus learns the truth, he feels so much shame that he blinds
Oedipus willingly blinds himself because he feels he can no longer face the world
around him. In the final scene Oedipus explains his actions, the blinding hand was my
own! How could I bear to see when all my sight was horror everywhere (2.5.1288-90)?
By blinding himself, Oedipus will not have to see anyone who knows about the horrible
deeds that he commits. For Oedipus is no longer the envy of all men, now they all turn
from him in horror. With the obliteration of his eyes, Oedipus is now dependent upon the
support of someone to guide him and a cane.
Through a combination of fate and free will, Oedipus completely dismantles his
life. At the conclusion of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is blind and leaving his homeland in exile
with the knowledge that he commits parricide and incest. From the story of Oedipus Rex
a person learns that no matter how fortunate he is at the moment, at any juncture in time,
everything can be taken away from him.
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