In the play Oedipus Rex, Sophocles portrays the clash between fate and free will that is a cornerstone of Athenian culture. Sophocles shows us that Athenians are ultimately puppets of the Gods through the life and death of Oedipus. The actions Oedipus takes to counteract the foretold prophecies ultimately lead to his fulfillment of them. The lack of control Oedipus has over his fate emphasizes the tragedy of the story. Oedipus’ life has been out of his hands since he was born, thus he is merely an instrument of the Gods’ bidding.
Oedipus does not have control of his life, though he may have been deceived into thinking so. Teiresias tells Oedipus the prophecy that, “He shall be proved both father and brother to his own children in his own house; to her that gave him birth, a son and husband both; a fellow sower in his father’s bed with the same father that he murdered” (Sophocles 535-539). Upon hearing this, Oedipus takes action to prevent the prophecy, but only ends up fulfilling it by unknowingly slaying Laius while fleeing. This is clear evidence that fate overcomes free will in Oedipus Rex. How can one know that the actions you take to change your fate will end up solidifying it? Oedipus thinks that he is in control of his destiny, but in reality, it is in the Gods’ hands.
The Gods even have the power to convince humans that their destiny is of their own free will, and not fate. However, the Gods had this plan set forth for Oedipus since his birth. The series of events and coincidences that occur to lead Oedipus to his demise are not all of his own doing, but the Gods deceive him into thinking so. “It is not fate that I should be your ruin, Apollo is enough; it is his care to work this out” (Sophocles 43...
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... situations such as this. But the mere fact that the Gods’ prophecy altered the circumstances of his upbringing argues fate over free will. Secondly, what would a king be if he did not pursue justice in his city? He had no reason to believe he was the murderer, so there would be no reason for Oedipus to not seek justice in this situation. Lastly, the culture of the time dictated that he should believe in the Gods’ prophecies and that they are the truth. The oracle may speak in riddles and irritate Oedipus, but there was still no reason to distrust the prophecy.
In conclusion Oedipus had no real control over his destiny, fate dominated over free will. From the time since his birth, everything has been controlled and set up by the Gods. He is merely an innocent pawn who was controlled by giving the illusion of free will. There was no way for Oedipus avoid his destiny.
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