Destiny, Fate, Free Will and Choice in Oedipus the King - Fate's Triumph

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Destiny, Fate, Free Will and Choice in Oedipus the King - Fate's Triumph

At the core of any tragedy there is a cruel change of fortune involved. This change of fortune is a key factor in man's demise and it can result in speculation that perhaps the gods plotted his ruin out of malice. To blame a higher power is the easy way to rationalize the downfall, but upon further investigation it becomes clear that it is actually man's attempt to escape his fate that leads to tragedy. Only when Oedipus was ruined did he realize his efforts to avoid what was pre-ordained were useless. Douglas Johnston states that "choice is at the heart of tragedy" (Johnston 14). In Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex Laius, Jocasta and Oedipus all choose to
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When Teiresias tells Oedipus he is Laius' killer Jocasta confidently reassures him that divination is unreliable.

No man possesses the secret of divination.

And I have proof. An oracle was given to Laius...

That he should die by the hands of his own child,

His child and mine. What came of it? Laius,

It is common knowledge, was killed by outland robbers

At a place where three roads meet. As for the child,

It was not yet three days old, when he cast it out...

To perish on the empty mountain-side.

There, then, Apollo did not so contrive it.

The offspring did not kill the father; the father,

For all his fears, was killed- not by his son.

Yet such were the prophet's warnings. (709-723)

Clearly this shows Jocasta thinks she has outwitted the gods; as such she starts to behave carelessly. If Jocasta and Laius had both erred on the side of caution rather than letting themselves grow full with overconfidence perhaps the tragedy could have been avoided. These circumstances set the stage for Apollo's word to prevail.

The actions of Laius and Jocasta are what start Oedipus on his fatal journey, but in the end his downfall is a direct result of the choices he made himself. When a drunken stranger tells him that Polybus is not his father all he has to do is ask his parents for the truth.

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