The Cruel Transformation in Oedipus the King Essay

1300 Words 6 Pages
The Cruel Transformation in Oedipus the King

When we look in the mirror, do we see what other people see or do we see what we delude ourselves into believing is the truth? Self-realization is a complicated concept, one which many Greek dramatists used in order to clarify the themes of their tragedies. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles ties Oedipus’ journey to self-realization with the main theme of the story. As Oedipus slowly begins to realize his true self, he transforms from a proud and heroic king into a tyrant in denial into a scared, condemned man, humbled by his tragic fate.

In the beginning, Oedipus is portrayed as a confident, powerful hero. His bravery and worth are proved when the reader learns how he
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We taught you nothing, no skill, no extra knowledge, still you triumphed" (44-47). Here, Oedipus' bold actions seem to be a blessing, a special gift from the gods used to benefit the city as a whole. Indeed Oedipus is idealized by the Thebans, yet at times he seems to spite the gods, assuming authority that normally belongs to them. For example, he pompously tells the Chorus, which implores the gods for deliverance from the city plague, "You pray to the gods? Let me grant your prayers" (245). Yet the people accept, even long for, this language from their king. Since the gods don't seem to give them aid, they place their hopes in Oedipus, this noble hero who has saved Thebes in the past and pledges to save it again.

Soon, however, Oedipus' character changes to a man in denial—a man more like a tyrant than a king—as he begins to solve the new riddle of Laius' death. A growing paranoia grips Oedipus when Jocasta recounts the story of her husband's murder, leading the king to suspect his own past actions. He remarks, absentmindedly, "Strange, hearing you just now . . . my mind wandered, my thoughts racing back and forth" (800-02). Yet Oedipus is not quick to blame himself for the plague of the city—indeed he tries to place the burden onto others as he continues his investigation, blindly trusting his own superior ability while ignoring the damaging evidence that surrounds him. For example, when Tiresias accuses Oedipus of being the murderer, the king

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