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Oedipus Rex Free Will Research Paper

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Free will in Oedipus Rex In terms of their fate, characters in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles have very little control over their lives and can do little to prevent major events in the story to influence the fulfilment of prophecies. The play itself follows the king of Thebes, Oedipus, who realizes in his quest to save the city that he has fulfilled a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother, a fate he had been trying to escape his whole life. One important theme in this story is the theme of free will, or in this case the absence of it. The significance of free will in Oedipus Rex is that Oedipus does not truly have the ability to exercise free will or to change his fate, but throughout the story he still tries to escape …show more content…
There are two major prophecies in the play, the first stating that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother and the other that the plague Thebes is experiencing can only end when the murderer of king Laius is found and banished. The first prophecy is given to Oedipus as a child, and it determines his fate from the beginning. Throughout his life his individual actions may alter his path or change aspects of his life but will not and cannot change his ultimate fate as the prophecy will be fulfilled, no matter what. That does not mean that Oedipus and his parents don't try to prevent the fulfillment of the prophecy, such as when his parents try to kill Oedipus as an infant, Jocasta explains, “Besides, before our child was three days old, Laius pinned his ankles tight together and ordered other men to throw him out on a mountain rock where no one ever goes” (lines 862-865). Even though trying to kill Oedipus may be a drastic step, it still does not change Oedipus's destiny or prevent the fulfilment of the prophecy. Oedipus also tries take his life into his own hands after learning of the prophecy he puts as he leaves Corinth where he was living with his “parents” to put as much distance between them as to prevent the prophecy from fulfilling “My fate was to defile my mother’s bed, to bring forth a human family that people …show more content…
After defeating the sphinx and ruling Thebes for 20 years, Oedipus has a substantial ego believes he can control his fate. This sense of pride is why when Tiresias tells him of the prophecy that the murderer of Laius must be found and banished to lift the plague, Oedipus vows to stop at nothing until it is complete and disregards Tiresias's warnings about his quest for knowledge. He believes he is too big and all-knowing for prophecies, and by extension the gods, to control his life and influence his actions, going so far as to tell Tiresias “Truth is not in you- for your ears, your mind, your eyes are blind! (Lines 445-446). This pride symbolizes Oedipus fatal flaw that influences his actions and causes his downfall. It is significant that Oedipus believes he can control his destiny as it causes him to seek out knowledge at all costs, leading to him discovering that he had already fulfilled the prophecy. Other characters such as Jocasta also disregard prophecies such as saying “Now, how did that unhappy son of ours kill Laius, when he’d perished long before?”(Lines 1023-1024). The actions of “free will” that come from these beliefs closely resemble Oedipus’s final fate. Jocasta and Oedipus both take actions that lead to terrible self-harm based on their disregard for the gods and prophecies. While Oedipus’s quest for knowledge

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