Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oedipus Rex Downfall Essay

Oedipus The King Downfall Essay

First of all I’d like to say that "Oedipus Rex" is a well-known tragedy written by Sophocles. It became a masterpiece of antique literature. Having read the book I understood much about life of ancient people, their psychology and beliefs. But in my essay I’ll try to explain what caused the downfall of Oedipus and what the consequences were.

What is the tragedy about? Oedipus got to know dreadful things about his future and tried to avoid it. But destiny always caught him. Oedipus solved the riddle of Sphinx and from that time on he got into a mess. Although he saved the town from monster, he didn’t save himself. In this way he gradually went to inevitable downfall. In this tragedy Sophocles shows the collapse of human and divine will.

Oedipus is depicted as responsible, initiative and anxious ruler, who cares about other people, listens to their needs and opinions. It is how the author represents Oedipus at the beginning of the tragedy. People hope to find steady life under his reign. But then the author describes how things gradually changed in the life of Oedipus, his family and people around.

Speaking about this book I can’t help saying about its style. There are many specific features which I want to highlight:

  • Main heroes see divine influence on their lives and feel responsibility for what they do.
  • Description of deities as a usual matter of fact.
  • Heroes possess high spiritual qualities.
  • Images are based on contrasts.
  • The book is written in a usual language. The author omits sophisticated words and phrases.

But as for me I think that the main characteristic of the book is tragic irony (an attempt to avoid sorrowful destiny). The tragedy itself begins when city is cursed by dreadful plague. Soil is no longer fertile, and newborn children die because of unknown illnesses. It would last until the murderer of former rex is not killed.

Oedipus cursed the murderer and began to search for him. But the matter is that Oedipus doesn’t know that he himself was the murderer. His downfall is obvious from the very beginning. When we understand that it is his fault, we also understand that Oedipus is sighted and blind at the same time. The whole story represents his way to downfall. He can’t see real meaning of many events. He becomes angry when prophet Tiresius tells him the truth about his future. Oedipus starts thinking that everyone wants to replace him. Further events however make him think carefully of the situation and he recollects that once he murdered a stranger.

I think that Sophocles skillfully composed the way from prosperity to humiliating downfall. Oedipus gets to know that his father died. He is glad that he wasn’t murdered at least. Then it turns out that it wasn’t his real father. Finally it becomes clear that he was the murderer. But it is not the most dreadful, as he continues to find out the truth. He understands that his wife is his mother. Who are his children then? I think it is the most important turn in the whole tragedy. Iocasta (wife of Oedipus) commits suicide. Final scene is especially sad. Oedipus understands that he is a toy in god’s hands and there is no chance to escape from destiny. That’s why he decides to prove his dignity in final scene when he pricks out own eyes. I consider it to be symbolic, as it shows self-punishment for past sins. He pricks out eyes because they didn’t help him to see truth around. He also finds it impossible to see his nearest and dearest whom he brought so much harm. Oedipus feels to blame and can’t overcome disgust to himself and his life. It is the downfall of the king. Like all other tragedies this one has a pitiful ending: farewell of Oedipus and his daughters. I think that the main theme of this story is limited human knowledge and ephemeral human happiness. The destiny of Oedipus (his humiliating degradation) shows that no one can be called happy until the end of life. Everything can happen during long human life. We are not preserved from unpleasant events in future.

What happened with Oedipus later after his downfall? He becomes a stranger. His daughter didn’t leave her father and decided to guide him. Oedipus had suffered much and thought over injustice of such fate. Second part of the story is devoted to atonement of Oedipus’s guilt by means of pain and exhaustion. Oedipus finally understood that he was punished fairly. Downfall of the king was caused by his own ignorance. In this way I’d like to sum up saying that Sophocles puts divine will on the first place. In spite of this, he describes people who want to act independently and carefully. He describes people who are able to pay for their errors and misdeeds. Even in unpleasant circumstances, heroes try to do everything possible and act according to high moral laws and norms. Sophocles’ heroes remain loyal and good-willed.

In conclusion I’d like to say that this book not only describes the downfall of a king. I think it is deeply psychological. It tells about destiny, family relations, human prejudices and many other aspects of life. I recommend reading it because it shows life of ancient people and their firm belief in power of gods. The main point is that people can’t escape from future misfortunes, whatever they try to do. People often face difficulties on their life way and nothing can be changed (according to Sophocles, of course).
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