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The Role of Faith and the Gods in Oedipus Rex

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A common struggle man faces is the question of who or what has power and control over his life. Does he have total control of his future, or is there a higher being at work that takes human lives into their own hands? Sophocles, in his work Oedipus Rex, establishes a view that gives fate, which is created by the gods, a seemingly inescapable characteristic over man. The role of fate is clearly defined, through the fulfillment of divine prophecy, and Oedipus’ inability to recognize prophecy as a realistic source of knowledge, as a fate that strikes a delicate balance with the free will of man.

The balance stricken between fate and free will, in Sophocles’ mind, is portrayed through Oedipus’ fatal flaw, which forces him to his fate, while also defining his free will. His hamartia is visible from the beginning of the play when Oedipus says to his people, “Tell me, and never doubt that I will help you” (Sophocles Prologue. 13). Clearly, he views himself as having a supreme ability to take matters into his own hands and aid the people whom he governs. This extreme desire to aid his people, which is undoubtedly an admirable quality, is coupled with an extreme desire to find answers. This thirst for knowledge is also shown at the beginning of the play through Oedipus’ interactions with Creon, where Oedipus badgers Creon with questions regarding the prophecy, asking “Murder of whom? Surely the god has named him?” (Prologue. 106). These two seemingly noble characteristics, the desire to help his people and the desire to know the truth, end up working against Oedipus, and results in the tragedy of the play. The role of fate in this beginning scene is clearly seen through the prophecy, but at this point in the plot, it is unclear ...

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...ons of the gods in conjunction with man’s acts of will can result in a life that is newly aligned on a desirable path of truth and respect both for and from the divine.

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