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Oedipus Rex Essay, Research Paper

Oedipus Rex

Sophocles’ Oedipus the King perpetuates this ideology that the title character pursues a path which happens to be foretold. Oedipus was determined to save his city and discover his identity, however he ultimately assists in his own downfall. Oedipus’ fall from his kingly status was not by accident or because of some other person. Oedipus is the only one that can be blamed for his misfortune. Oedipus’ character traits are shown most clearly during his turning downfall, thinking he is “a simple man, who knows nothing”, yet knowing more than he realizes by the end of the story.

Throughout the story, Oedipus’ lack of patience is most evident. Wishing to end this mystery of the death of Laios as quickly as possible, Oedipus passes an edict to kill anyone who withholds information. Teiresias tested Oedipus’ patience in the beginning of the story with information he was withholding, “For you would rouse a very stone to wrath…”. This impatient accusing of Teiresias proved to be bad, especially since Teiresias foretold the ending of the story. If Oedipus had been more patient and waited, he might have not been quite so upset about the future, nor shaken up about what was to happen.

However, that one trait did not alone take away his position of high authority. Oedipus displayed anger throughout the whole story, which did not help him at all. During the story, we learn of Oedipus’ anger as he knocked a passerby at the meeting of the three highways, “ I being enraged, strike him who jostled me…” Later, this passerby whom he angrily and quickly killed, was revealed to be Laios, Oedipus’ father. Oedipus’ anger is also shown as he begins to insult Teiresias by calling him an old man, “Blind as you are in eyes, and ears, and mind!”

The final trait that was Oedipus’ greatest enemy throughout the play was his own truthfulness. Whenever new facts presented themselves, Oedipus gave them an honest look. As soon as it was suspect that Oedipus was involved, he acknowledged it. Oedipus never held back any evidence pointing to his possible future eviction and loss of his kingly status. As the plot grew to the uppermost point, Oedipus proceeds testimony of the Shepherd, as he wanted to hear more. This trait was the binding trait that brought Oedipus’ downfall. If Oedipus hid all the facts concerning himself, he could have easily buried this as nobody would know that he killed his father.

Introduced as a caring and concerned King, he suddenly emerges as a rash and presumptuous character whose decisions are not well founded. His traits of anger, lack of patience, and truthfulness, each helped accelerate his decline of power. Unfortunately, for Oedipus, this decline of power led to the plucking of his own eyes. Oedipus’ damaging behavior eventually leads to the realization of his true identity that also brings this horrifying truth to dishonor his family and destroy his image in the eyes of the people.


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