The Themes And Problems Of Oedipus English Literature Essay

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Listen to you? No more. I must know it all, / must see the truth at last" (1168-1169). Oedipus constantly seeks the truth throughout Sophocles' Oedipus the King. His unrelenting attitude concerning Thebes' problems and who he really is, leads to Jocasta's suicide and to Oedipus gouging out his own eyes. Regardless of other characters warning him about the disastrous outcome of the situation, he stops at nothing to uncover the horrendous truth. However, Oedipus has a good reason for being so persistent. He does not know his parents adopted him, he does not know he killed his own father, and he does not know that he married his own mother. In addition, it is almost impossible for him to realize that the prophecy he heard at Delphi so many years ago has come true. He is completely oblivious about who he actually is. He is a smart man who was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, and when others present him with dilemmas and challenges, he approaches them with a logical perspective and attempts to respond in the best way possible. However, it is difficult to make a good decision when he is so ignorant of reality. Throughout the play, Oedipus makes rash decisions, jumps to incorrect conclusions, and makes mistakes; however, because of his ignorance of who he actually is, he is not responsible for his actions.

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Oedipus vigorously seeks to discover the truth about who killed Laius, unaware of the fact that he himself killed him. Even when other characters advise him not to pursue the situation any further, he continues to dig deep to find answers to all of his questions. From the moment Oedipus speaks to Tiresias near the beginning of the play, relatives and trusted advisors constantly tell him to leave the truth alone. Tiresias warns him saying, "I'd rather not cause pain for you or me. / So why this . . . useless interrogation?" (378-379).Tiresias is afraid for Oedipus; he does not want to cause him any pain at all. He persists in trying to convince Oedipus not to question the matter any further, but Oedipus will not give up. Oedipus perseveres because he wants to save Thebes. He addresses his kingdom and expresses how much he cares for his people: "Your pain strikes each of you alone, each / in the confines of himself, no other. But my spirit / grieves for the city, for myself and all of you" (74-76). Oedipus is loyal to the people of his kingdom and does not want them to suffer. He wants to do everything in his power to solve the city's problem. As a result, he has the mindset that he will not rest until he helps the people of Thebes out of their misery. He has no way of knowing how terrible Tiresias' news could be, and all he wants to do is help his kingdom. His desire to catch the murderer leads to the eventual unveiling of the fact that he married his mother.

Oedipus' search for his real parents uncovers his act of incest. When a messenger tells him that the herdsman knows who his real father is, Oedipus sends for him at once. Jocasta begs him not to proceed any further with his investigation: "Oh no, / listen to me, I beg you, don't do this" (1166-1167). After the messenger mentions the herdsman Jocasta finally recognizes what happened and tries to protect Oedipus from the truth. However, Oedipus' stubbornness results in the failure to listen to her. He questions Jocasta's plea saying, "What - give up now, with a clue like this? / Fail to solve the mystery of my birth? / Not for all the world!" (1160-1162). All he wants to do is find out the identity of his real parents, which is a very good reason to be so curious and unrelenting in his search. He thinks that the worst that could happen is that his "mother turns out to be a slave" (1165). Oedipus does not even consider the possibility that he married his own mother. However, he finally realizes the whole truth when the shepherd tells him, "If you are the man he says you are, believe me, / you were born for pain" (1305-1306). At this point, he knows that he killed his own father and married his own mother. His deep desire to discover who his real parents uncover the horrible truth. He is oblivious to who he really is, the son of Laius and Jocasta, and Laius' murderer. The audience should not blame him for his persistence because of his curiosity about his past and ignorance to the tragic aspects of it

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Oedipus accuses Creon and Tiresias of plotting against him because in his mind, he is sure that he did not kill Laius. When Tiresias first accuses Oedipus of murdering Laius, Oedipus immediately deflects the accusation with certainty and gives the audience the impression that he has no doubt in his mind that he is innocent. When Tiresias first accuses him of murdering Laius, Oedipus says, "If I thought you would blurt out such absurdities, you'd have died waiting before I'd had you summoned" (494-495). Oedipus' anger with Tiresias' claim emphasizes his extreme certainty that he did not kill Laius. He thinks that if he had killed Laius sometime in the past he would definitely know it. Throughout the play, other characters give the audience the impression that Oedipus is an honorable man. An honorable man would most likely come forward and confess his faults. Even the Chorus seems to think the accusation is impossible: "Laius' house and the son of Polybus? / I know of nothing, not in the past and not now, / no charge to bring against our king, no cause / to attack his fame that rings throughout Thebes - / not without proof - not for the ghost of Laius, / not to avenge a murder gone without a trace" (555-560). Oedipus thinks that the accusations are so preposterous that he has to deflect them upon someone else. To him, the only logical explanation of the sudden allegation is that Tiresias and Creon are plotting against him. He feels that there could be no other reason as to why they would so wrongly accuse him of a murder that he is sure he did not commit. His ignorance of his crime stimulates him to jump to conclusions very easily, which results in his turning on Tiresias and Creon.

Oedipus' complete obliviousness provokes him to make mistakes and jump to conclusions; however, he is not responsible for his actions. Until very late in the play, it seems to be almost impossible for Oedipus to recognize that the prophecies that he heard in the past have come true. Throughout the play, he persists in his hunt for the truth about the murder of Laius and the identity of his real parents. Since no one ever tells him that his parents adopted him, he has no way of knowing any vital information that could keep him from shedding light on the disastrous facts about his life. He makes many mistakes while seeking answers to all of his questions. He accuses Tiresias and Creon of plotting against him; he curses himself without knowing it when he curses Laius' murderer; and he continues to prod for information even when other characters advise him to stop. The constant mistakes that he makes are all due to his unawareness of who he truly is.