The Transformation of Oedipus




level: grade 10 honors

subject: English / Oedipus Rex

score: A



Title: The Transformation of Oedipus



When Oedipus, as a young man, first learned from one of Apollo92s

oracles that he

was destined to murder his father and marry his mother, he fled his home in

Corinth,

attempting to defy the prophecy, and he wandered the roads of Greece. In hi

s

wanderings

he happened upon another traveler who obstructed his path. Being too proud

to detour

from his course and let this other man through, Oedipus killed him.

He went on to become king of Thebes by marrying the residing queen,

Jocaste.

Under Oedipus92 rule, the city saw immediate and lasting prosperity. But

fifteen years

down the line, a plague swept over Thebes, and the only cure for the city92

s

troubles was

for its former king Laius92 murderer to be brought to justice. Laius had

disappeared

fifteen years earlier, shortly before Oedipus arrived in Thebes and solved

the riddle of the

sphinx, freeing the city from its clutches. Oedipus sends for the omniscien

t

Tiresias, who

is reluctant to reveal the implicating information to the king, but Oedipus

92

refuses to let

his pride falter, so he blindly pursues the identity of the murderer, unawar

e

that he is on a

mission of self-incrimination. Tiresias92 words lead Oedipus to learn that

Laius was his

both his father and the former king of Thebes, not to mention the traveler

that Oedipus

killed on his passage to Thebes. So he punishes himself by gouging out his

eyes, in

retribution for his crimes.

It is often said the Oedipus was fated to doom, that he could have

done nothing;

to the contrary, Oedipus spent every moment of his life digging his own

grave. His

excessive pride and arrogance, as well as his notion that he could challenge

a prophecy

from the gods, were the shovel he dug with. All the important decisions he

made in his

lifetime, he made with this hubris. His judgements were all the foundation

for his

demise; he, not fate, constructed his path to doom.

After the drunkard at a party in his home of Corinth blurted out 93You

are not your

father92s son,94 Oedipus embarked on a journey to Delphi to learn the vali

dity

of this

statement. But he learned much more important matters upon arriving, namely

the

infamous prophecy that he would kill his father and couple with his mother,

who, to his

knowledge, were Polybus and Merope, the king and queen of Corinth. So Oedip

us

abandoned his life in the city of those who had raised him. This outright

mocking of the

gods92 prophecy was a big step in Oedipus92 downfall. He thought he could

outrun the

prediction, but instead, his arrogance pushed him into its grasp in Thebes,

where his real

parents, Laius and Jocaste, reigned.

His own pride would again bring him to fulfill the destiny he dreaded

so much on

the way to Thebes. He would not stray slightly from his path to let Laius

by, and he

killed him. Oedipus had much more pride than it took to simply attempt to

invalidate the

prophecy by refraining from murder altogether; his arrogance led him to kill

a stranger.

Had he been able to swallow his conceitedness and let Laius by, Oedipus woul

d

not have

proceeded to the midpoint of the prophecy. By killing his father, he

fulfilled the first half

of it.

Oedipus goes on believing that his Corinthian caretakers were his

biological

parents up to and through the death of Polybus, who fell of natural causes.

In fact, this

reinforces Oedipus92 false belief that he could defy Apollo92s prophecy,

furthering his

pompous nature. Tiresias sees that Oedipus92 pride counters his desire for

the

excruciating truth, and hesitates to tell him. To Oedipus, this is a

challenge of the king92s

authority. He wants desperately to prove to the people of Thebes that he ha

s

saved them

before and can do it again. Unwilling to accept defeat before the populatio

n

of the city,

he accuses Tiresias and Creon of treason. As he pushes Tiresias for more

information on

Laius92 murderer, he pushes for his own defeat, visionless from his own pride.

Not content with Tiresias92 riddle that reveals to the audience, who

are not blind

like the Thebian king, that Oedipus is the killer, Oedipus probes deeper into

the mystery.

He disregards the beckoning of his wife Jocaste to not look further into the

puzzle and

becomes a detective on the trail to expose himself. Determined not to look

weak in front

of Thebes, Oedipus has neglected the warnings of both a prophet and his wife

.

He tries

looking everywhere but inside himself, where the answer is closer. He would

have saved

himself loads of trouble had he only taken a step back from the entire

fiasco, and seen

that all leads point the finger at him. But his pride was his blindfold, hi

s

hubris his

downfall.

In the end, Oedipus learns what has been under his nose the whole

time, what he

was