Comparing Oedipus and Job

analytical Essay
1014 words
1014 words

Classical literature is filled with stories of capricious deities playing with human lives as if they were only toys. The Greek tradition of tragedy is based upon celebrating this very aspect of the nature of the pantheon of Greek gods. Sophocles finds a perfect example of this celebration of fate, in the tragedy Oedipus the King. Conversely, the Story of Job uses the dramatic tension of a "wager" between God and Satan on the sincerity of Job's devotion to God. Where Oedipus' life, regardless of personal choice, is bound up by fated situations and their fated outcomes, Job's story is one of choice in the midst of supernaturally imposed difficulties. While both strive to teach resignation to the will of God, they each espouse quite different attitudes in resignation.

In Oedipus The King, Sophocles presents a view of life fixed by fate. This fate, predetermined by the gods, is the sole factor in deciding human destiny. Tiresias expresses his understanding of the unchangeable fate of Oedipus, laid out by the gods, as he argues with the King about revealing the truth of all the Theban troubles. When Oedipus, frustrated by the lack of cooperation, insults Tiresias, he responds "I pity you, flinging at me the very insults / each man here will fling at you so soon."(322) Even more telling of the fated existence of Sophocles' characters is Jocasta's revelation of prophecies given before Oedipus' birth which foretold all that the gods had in store, which had indeed come to pass (332).

An interesting and important aspect of this Greek notion of fate is the utter helplessness of the human players. No matter the choice made by the people involved in this tragedy, the gods have determined it and it is going to come to pass. T...

... middle of paper ... beginning…"(58). Again, the reader sees similar goals in finding resignation, but vastly different paths and attitudes in that resigned state.

The personal choice of a righteous life is taught by Job, while a fated beginning and a fated ending, regardless of human choice, is the sad lot of Oedipus. These two men were given separate fates by separate gods and were forced to live with the outcome. From the beginning Job is given the opportunity to survive. Even in the midst of all his pain and suffering there does exist the opportunity for success. Oedipus on the other hand is fated from the beginning, from birth. The gods decide his fate and there is no escape from the gods. Both of these stories focus on the idea of resignation to the will of a god or gods. However, they leave the reader with two different views of the idea of fate and suffering.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how the greek tradition of tragedy celebrates the nature of the pantheon of greek gods. sophocles finds a perfect example of this celebration of fate in the tragedy oedipus the king.
  • Analyzes how tiresias expresses his understanding of the unchangeable fate of oedipus, laid out by the gods, as he argues with the king about revealing the truth of all the theban troubles.
  • Analyzes the ironic twist of fate that defines oedipus' tragic existence. tiresias' statement expresses an attitude of resignation to fate and suffering.
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