Comparing and Contrasting the Purpose of Self-Punishment in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Ibsen's Hedda Gabler
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Characters that stand out are the ones that commit ludicrous actions such as self-punishment, to convey curiosity and to make a story more creative and entertaining. Self-punishment is something that both Sophocles and Henrik Ibsen incorporated into their stories, it is a way of relieving pain, suffering or an act of avoidance, which is portrayed in the play Oedipus Rex (429BC) and Hedda Gabler (1890). Hedda Gabler and Oedipus both find a way of relieving themselves through self-punishment, simply because it is the only way of overcoming their obstacles. These characters are considered different and are perceived as being more valuable characters because their punishment is the climax in the story. The audience is left to reason why they had committed this act, which gives off a lasting impression of the story and ultimately the character.
Oedipus Rex a strong, ludicrous, ignorant king; flees his ‘homeland’ in order to elude the prophecy that “he was never to enter his native land, for if he did, he would kill his father and marry his mother” (Johnson 2). Taking this action Oedipus does just what the prophet had foretold; at the point of realization, he bludgeons his eyes out as an act of self-punishment. Self-punishment is what relieves Oedipus from his pain, although by inflicting more pain on himself his actions speak louder than words. After seeing what the outcomes of his actions were, Oedipus takes away his sight so that he no longer suffers the truth. This is because he was blind to the truth his whole life. Oedipus was blinded in more than one way.
He is blinded by the truth of his life because Oedipus did not know that his real parents were Laius and Iocaste. He was furious with all those that had suggested the idea. A...
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...erely an example of how humans try to forget about things or put things out of misery, ignoring how others feel. However, the action is done to bring things into perspective, for themselves. Humans are selfish creatures and confusing ones, but acts of self-punishment emphasize a person’s differences as well as their characteristics, leaving others to infer the purpose of their actions and this can be shown in both Hedda Gabler –to prove that she was not a coward and was in control of her own life- and Oedipus Rex-to demonstrate that he was blinded by the truth and that being ignorant has harsh punishment.
Henrik Ibsen. Hedda Gabler. Trans. Edmug Gosse and William Archer. Stilwell, KS: Digireads.com Publishing, 2005.
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. The Oedipus Cycle. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovish, 1976. 3-78.