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A Comparison of Individual Responsibility in Oedipus Rex and A Doll's House

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Individual Responsibility in Oedipus Rex and A Doll's House

 
In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Ibsen's A Doll's House, the main characters - Nora and Oedipus, are both constructed to illustrate flaws in society.  Oedipus' psychological evolution sees him begin as an all-powerful, righteous king, who seemingly through no fault of his own murders his father and marries his mother.  His evolution ends with his self-blinding, an action which Sophocles' uses to establish the true freedom of the individual before divine authority.  In A Doll's House, the development of Nora Helmer leads her from believing that she is happily married to realizing that she is a mere possession for her husband's entertainment.  By her decision at the end of the play to leave her family and explore her own self-identity, Ibsen is insinuating that concern for oneself is far from selfish; it is in fact a supreme duty.  Both plays introduced new waves of thought into society, and proved that freedom and justice are essentially matters of individual decision and responsibility.1

King Oedipus is introduced in Oedipus Rex as the charming, courageous, and all powerful king of Thebes.  In the opening sequence of the play, Oedipus is approached by his citizens, led by a priest, who asks him to find the source of the plague which is devastating their city.  He praises Oedipus as "King of the land, our greatest power,"[ln. 15] and then goes on to describe the dire situation the townspeople find themselves in, which includes stillborn babies and pestilence.  Sophocles uses this conversation between Oedipus and the priest to establish Oedipus' grandeur, as can be seen in by the Priest's plea to Oedipus:

Now we pray to you.  You cannot equal the gods, your chi...


... middle of paper ...


...g. 138

5 Knox, Bernard.  Sophocles - The Three Theban Plays.  Pg. 139

6 Ibid.  pg. 138

7 ln. 269-279

8 ln. 469-474

9 Salome, Lou.  Ibsen's Heroines

10 Ibsen, Henrik.  A Doll's House.  Pg. 30

11 Salome, Lou.  Ibsen's Heroines.  Pg. 48

12 Ibsen, Henrik.  A Doll's House.  Pg. 54

13 Salome, Lou.  Ibsen's Heroines.  Pg. 48

14 Ibid.  Pg. XV

15 Ibid.  Pg. 63

16 Ibsen, Henrik.  A Doll's House - Pg. XVI

17 ln. 1395-1405

18 MacFarlane, James.  Ibsen and Meaning - Studies, Essays, and Prefaces.  Pg. 248

19 Ibsen, Henrik.  A Doll's House  Pg. 99

20 Winnington Ingram, R.P.  Fate in Sophocles.  Pg. 134

21 Knox, Bernard.  Sophocles - The Three Theban Plays.  Pg. 149

22 ln. 1467-71

23 MacFarlane, James.  Ibsen and Meaning - Studies, Essays, and Prefaces.  Pg. 245

24 Ibid.  Pg. 250

25 Ibid.  Pg. 250
 


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