The central theme of Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex is the mortal sins of murder and incest. Mortal sin reappears throughout this tragedy as Oedipus commits crimes within the kingdom of Thebes, in an attempt to prevent the oracle from coming true. In his infancy, Oedipus’s birth parents received an oracle that their son would grow up to kill his own father. This prophecy leads them to abandon their son; however, once Oedipus becomes an adult, he is informed of the oracle and flees Corinth to protect his adopted parents. After learning Polybos is not his real father, Oedipus sets out on a quest to locate his birth parents and uncover the oracle’s true meaning. Oedipus is depicted as a vile character, who damns the curse and his own birth, but never casts aside his children. Thus, King Oedipus is the inversion of a perfect family man and his self-sacrifice plays a more important role than the oracle’s fulfillment in appeasing the gods.
An overbearing desire to absorb the sins and misfortunes of all his people in Thebes presents Oedipus as the ultimate ruler. Describing the sick children, a priest asks that life and fortune be restored to the city, to which Oedipus responds: “Sick as you are, not one is as sick as I” (63). Defending this statement, Oedipus confesses to the priest that unlike most men in Thebes, who suffer on an individual basis because of their personal anguish, his spirit “groans for the city, for myself, for you” (66). Continuing the metaphor of his suffering, Oedipus states, “Let them all hear it. It for them I suffer, more than for myself” (96). By not covering up the corruption in his household, Oedipus becomes an ideal king.
Oedipus’s relationship with his birth mother and his adopted parents characterizes him as ...
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...ildren, the god was Apollo. He brought my sick, sick fate upon me. But the blinding hand was my own” (1287-1290). By confessing the blinding hand was his own Oedipus owns up to his sins of murder and incest, while maintaining his honor as a great ruler. During trial Oedipus offers a solution to appease the gods, stating, “Drive me out of this country as quickly as may be (1384), “his command is plain: the parricide must be destroyed. I am that evil man” (1388-1389). Thus, after the oracle comes true, Oedipus is compelled to sacrifice everything to give his children and his kingdom a brighter future. Through his sacrifice to leave Thebes and abolish the curse from his household, Oedipus becomes the ultimate family man.
Davis, Paul B. "Sophocles: Oedipus Rex." The Bedford Anthology of World Literature. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004. 899-951. Print.
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