The Search for Truth in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex
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The scholar is engaged in the interminable quest for truth. The knowledge that one can never understand everything makes a person wise. Ignorance is the assumption that one can understand all about the world around them. An ignorant person is so confident they comprehend the truth, that they are blind to the greater truth. Anton Chekhov and Sophocles deal with the idea of this sinful pride that leads to ignorance in their respective works, The CherryOrchard and Oedipus Rex. In each drama, certain characters are slapped in the face with the truth; the light is revealed. However, these characters make the connection when it is too late. Their destruction is already destined to become a reality, a horrid fate that could have been prevented. Both Chekhov and Sophocles present the universal theme that an open mind, constantly in search for truth, is the mark of a worthy individual, and prideful stubbornness can only lead to demise.
The question must then be asked, what truths are evident in these texts? Oedipus is the proud king of a county called Thebes. However, his country has fallen on hard times as a result of angry gods displaying their wrath. The oracle reveals to Oedipus that the curse shall be lifted when the murderer of the former king is put to justice. As the incriminating evidence piles up against Oedipus, he remains ignorant of the truth that he is the killer whom he seeks. He stubbornly refuses to believe that he cannot escape his fate. Sophocles presents this ironic truth in light and dark imagery. The chorus dramatically demands, “Artemis, Huntress, / Race with flaring lights upon our mountains / […] Whirl upon Death, that all the Undying hate! / Come with blinding torches, come in joy!” (Sophocles l.198-204). The...
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...hile she awaits the news of what happened to the cherry orchard, she is still kidding herself with false hope, ignorant hope. She did not want to see the truth, and now her fate is sealed. Had she opened her eyes, things might have ended up differently. Trofimov tells her to look the dreadful truth straight in the eye because she “served [her] own destruction” (Sophocles l.1468. 20). And yet, despite the wisdom of our predecessors, do we not still find our vision obscured by a prideful stubbornness, our eyes sealed against the light of truth?
Chekhov, Anton. The Cherry Orchard. Four Plays. Trans. David Magarshack. New York: Hill & Wang, 1969.
Eekman, Thomas A. Critical Essays on Anton Chekhov. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1989.
Sophocles. "Oedipus Rex." An Introduction to Literature, 11th ed.Eds. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman, 1997.