Fate the un-avoidable Throughout the vast history of literature, various concepts have come and gone. The idea of fate or fatalism has been a concept that has survived the test of time. Numerous characters have succumbed to the power of fate and the character of Oedipus from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King is a prime example of the vast power of fate within literature. Sophocles effectively depicts the wrath of fate as he portrays how Oedipus fell victim to fate and his efforts to disregard fate were futile.
Once again fate manages to triumph and displays no character whether king or slave can avoid its gaze. One can attempt to change his or her fate. Numerous beings have put their entire lives into avoiding fate. Even if the strength of the earth and heaven united, what is decree as fate can only manifest itself according to time. However, in various situations one’s fate can be determined before the being is even given life. This is the very situation Oedipus was unknowingly born into. Before Sophocles would begin his play viewers would already have an idea of the play’s prologue.
The prologue detailed Oedipus’s rise to king and more importantly his connection with fate. Oedipus was born to Laius King of Thebes and his wife Queen Jocasta. Before his birth Laius and Jocasta were given an ominous message by the god Apollo stating that their own son would kill his father and marry his mother. Soon after the revelation of this message, Oedipus was born. In order to avoid his fate, Laius crippled Oedipus’s ankle and gave him to a shepherd instructing the shepherd to leave Oedipus to die in the mountains. The saying “Father like Son” is ironically portrayed here.
Laius did the same thing Oedipus tried throughout the play, avoiding fate. Even while planning his own son’s demise Laius was just portraying the qualities his own son would grow to inherit. As Oedipus falters in his clash with fate so does Laius as one learns in the prologue, Oedipus grows up and unknowingly kills Laius. This effectively follows the path set out by fate and Oedipus blindly follows this path while actively denying it. This denial would sprout into an utter defiance of fate by Oedipus and the final result would not be in his favour.
Wisdom is an attribute that can be utilized in numerous ways. The most important aspect of the usage of wisdom is whether it benefits or harms the user. During the play a key line is said by the character Tiresias, the local prophet. When called upon by Oedipus, Tiresias states, “Wisdom is a dreadful thing when it brings no profit to its possessor”. This is a very significant statement. It clearly defines the situation Oedipus puts himself through. Oedipus’s lust for knowledge and thirst for admiration by his subjects spells his own demise.
Through constant pressuring by Oedipus, Tiresias reveals Oedipus was the one who killed Laius. It seems Oedipus brought upon his own fate through the pestering of Tiresias. The unaccounted factor is the reason for Oedipus’s actions. Fate is responsible for a series of plagues that have engulfed Thebes and have situated Oedipus in a scenario where he must find the killer of Laius to undo the plagues. The forcefulness of Oedipus is fuelled by fate ensuring Oedipus has a viable reason to obtain knowledge no matter the consequence.
Once again Oedipus is inadvertently on fates path which only harm him by its end. Chance is a very interesting concept. The belief things happen unknowingly and by mere luck. In the play chance is over shadowed by fate, a pre-determined destiny. A prime example of the contrast between these two factors is the arrival of the Corinthian messenger. One can say the messenger came by chance and luckily found Oedipus. Realistically the messenger was just a pawn in the pre-determined plan of fate. The messenger relays to Oedipus that the king of Corinth, Polybus has died.
This news over joys Oedipus and Jocasta due to the fact fate supposedly stated Oedipus would kill Polybus his biological father. As the couple rejoice and mock the concept of fate, the messenger informs Oedipus that Polybus was not his biological father. This is fate playing another hand to ensure Oedipus continues on to his pre-determined destiny. Fate sent the messenger and it ensured the messenger shed light on Oedipus’s actual origins. This was no portrayal of chance; Oedipus faced the cold hard reality of fate.
Oedipus due to his crazed nature went into a frenzy to determine who birth parents were. One can understand what follows and how the play climax’s as Oedipus goes to obtain the last piece of knowledge required to seal his fate. Oedipus was blinded by a thirst for knowledge and fate ensures this blinding becomes a reality. Fate is one word that can have momentous effects. No matter what period of history is examined, fate within literature has always held importance. Numerous characters no matter how great or influential have fallen into the hands of fate.
Perhaps one of the greatest characters to fall into fates gazed was Oedipus from Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King. Sophocles used his mastery of the human mind to portray the fact even though Oedipus thought he was all knowing, he unknowingly was always on fates pre-determined path. No matter what Oedipus did his fate had been determined before hand and the concept of fate emphasized no character could avoid it. Fate added another character to its intricate web of pre-determined destinies. Works Cited Knox, Bernard. Oedipus the King Translation: New York: Simon & Schuster inc. 1994
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