Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King

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Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King

The great psychologist-philosopher Carl Jung was briefly a student of Freud. Because Jung felt that Freud's approach to psychoanalysis was by far too narrow, he broke off from his teachings, and made significant contributions to mythological criticism. Jung's greatest contribution was his theory of archetypes. His proposal of archetypes argues that there is one original pattern or model of all things of the same type. According to Jung, beneath the personal unconscious is a collective unconscious that is in the psychic inheritance of all humans. Jung thought of the collective unconscious as a sort of memory bank that stores images and ideas that humans have accumulated over the course of evolution. This theory of Jung's supported other theories that argues that humans are born with instincts. "Mind is not born as a tabula rasa [a clean slate]. Like the body, it has its pre-established individual definiteness; namely, forms of behaviour. They become manifest in the ever-recurring patterns of psychic functioning" (Guerin 175). It is important to realize that archetypes are not inherited ideas or patterns of thought, but rather that they are inclinations to respond in similar ways to certain stimuli (Guerin 175-178). One predominant archetype within mythological criticism is the sacrificial scapegoat. In Sophocles' play Oedipus Tyrannus, the archetype of the sacrificial scapegoat is carried out by Oedipus as he solves the impossible riddle of the sphinx, delivers Thebes from a horrible plague, and then takes his mother's hand in marriage.

As portrayed within Oedipus Tyrannus, the sacrificial scapegoat is "representative of the divinity whose death is preordained as an elabor...

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...in of Laius in order to deliver the city from its horrible plague. Through his quest Oedipus arrives at his self-discovery, revealing aspects about himself that had never crossed his mind. It is here that Oedipus has to confront and learn to accept the truths about his infancy, the killing of his father, and his marriage to his mother, although these truths are terrifying to face. In the end Oedipus scratches out his eyes, and then leaves the city of Thebes to wander aimlessly until his death.

Work Cited

Brunel, Pierre. Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Guerin, Wilford L. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1979.

Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. New York: Norton, 1970.

Vickery, John B. Myths and Texts. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1983.
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