Oedipus: Riddle of the Sphinx as a Metaphor of Life

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Oedipus: Riddle of the Sphinx as a Metaphor of Life Oedipus Rex (the King), written by Sophocles, is the tragic play depicting the disastrous existence to which Oedipus, an Athenian, is 'fated' to endure. With a little help from the gods and the 'fated' actions and decisions of Oedipus, an almost unthinkable misfortune unfolds. Athenian perfection can consist of intelligence, self-confidence, and a strong will. Oedipus, the embodiment of such perfection, and his tragedy are common place to Athenians. Ironically, the very same exact characteristics that bring about the ominous discovery of Oedipus' fate: to kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus' 'fated' decisions entangle everyone whom is of any significance to him within a quagmire of spiraling tragedy. Sophocles uses the riddle of the Sphinx as a metaphor for the three phases of Oedipus' entangled life, the three phases of human life, and to describe how every life-changing action or decision can influence other lives. As stated in Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, the Sphinx poses the following riddle to all those who would come to her: "What goes on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three at evening?"(Gioia and Kennedy, 1253) Many of Thebes' most intelligent citizens die as result of answering incorrectly. Using his superior discernment and diligence, Oedipus answers the riddle correctly and secures his reward in claiming the high seat of King of Thebes, along side Queen Jocasta. As a child, man crawls on his hands and knees, which the Sphinx refers to as four legs. One depends solely on others for nourishment and well being. Sophocles enacts this particular portion of the metaphor by telling us of Oedipus' birth an... ... middle of paper ... ...g life's circle and the riddle of the Sphinx. How often can one look back on life and see the choices one makes, only to come to the realization that no matter what decisions one makes about any and all of life's choices, most of humanity is paralleled by the same metaphor Sophocles uses to guide Oedipus' life? The riddle of the Sphinx is fate for each and every man, woman, and child. Although in real life the ending isn't always quite as tragic, everyone brings about his or her own discovery of truth and that quest of discovery inevitably touches, and in some cases, dramatically changes the lives of significant and insignificant friends, family, and acquaintances. Works Cited Sophocles. "Oedipus the King." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. New York: Longman, 1999. 1902.

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