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Power of the Gods and Religion in Oedipus the King

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In the tragic play, Oedipus Rex, the Gods and religion greatly influence the social structure which in turn has a profound effect upon how the events unfold. Oedipus is the head of the state. There is a direct parallel in the demise of his household and city state which eventually comes to a full circle to destroy him. Even though Oedipus is praised by his people for being a responsible and honest king, he possesses a major character flaw in his attitude towards the gods which causes the tragic torture he faces in the end. Over the duration of the play, there is a strong sense of contamination towards the state, because it is facing a time of plague, and towards the leader Oedipus, because he is unknowingly in a relationship with his own mother. The cleansing of the state can only occur if the ruler, Oedipus, and his ignorant ways are put to rest. The state and the household are directly linked to Oedipus. His incestuous ways are the outcome of anger from the gods for being intelligent and because the leader of the state is plagued with such a flaw the state must suffer for the wronging of the leader. This sense of contamination ultimately leads the gods to cleanse the state, household, and Oedipus by revealing the flaw to everyone and Oedipus at the same time.

Oedipus learns through the revelation of the oracle that he is destined to kill his father and marry his mother. As a result, he is driven to the belief that he can control his own fate, and not leave it up to the gods. By doing this, Oedipus places himself into the category of a god. The gods, particularly Apollo, takes great offence to this and decides to put Oedipus back in his place by punishing him and his state. (Mannani 2005) The punishment of the state is a se...


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...his blood cannot be cleansed by anyone but the gods and his religion.

In conclusion, Oedipus's fate is his destruction in the chain of being, the ultimate cleansing of the state, the household, and himself. His rejection and persistence to ignore the power of the gods and religion is the cause for his great demise. Oedipus, a character too proud and knowledgeable, is seen as a threat to the gods. Any threat to the gods is sure to result in the destruction of the threat in order to restore the balance in the chain of being. The above discussion shows support of how religion greatly influenced the lives of people and society's structure.

Work Cited

Dodds, E.R. "On Misunderstanding the Oedipus Rex." Twentieth Century Interpretations of Oedipus Rex: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Michael J. O'Brien. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 2005. Print.


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