The Tragic Hero In Oedipus The King

Oedipus murders his own father and marries his mother. Which is exactly what he had tried so hard not to do for years, but it was his fate. However, he is still widely considered a hero because he is courageous, has a quest, a weakness, and much more.

Oedipus is most popular from the play 'Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles, written around 441 B. C. In the story, he is known as a tragic hero because he is the cause of his own horrific downfall, unable to accept his morbid fate from an all-knowing oracle. When Oedipus was an infant, his father went to an oracle that told him if he had kids, they would grow up to kill him and marry his wife. Not knowing what else to do, and not wanting to be murdered, he leaves Oedipus on a nearby hill to die of exposure, but the child survives. Someone from a neighboring kingdom hears Oedipus crying and brings the infant to the King and Queen, who are not able to bear children. When Oedipus grows up, he is told that the King and Queen who took him in are not his real parents.

Oedipus becomes confused and curious about his birth parents and where they are, so he goes to the oracle. Of course, he is unaware that it is the same oracle his father went to. This is a heroic trait of Oedipus because the oracle is his wise guide, as most heroes have a wise guide. The Oracle tells the same thing to Oedipus that was told to his father when he was a child. That he would kill his father and marry his mother. At this point, he thinks that the oracle meant the parents that took him in as an infant. So, he tries to escape his inevitable fate by going to the next kingdom over, thinking that if he avoids his parents, he cannot do them any harm. However, the next kingdom over just happens to be the kingdom that his real parents rule. This moment shows his major flaw. His inability to accept his destiny, causing him to run head-on into it. When Oedipus makes it to the kingdom that belongs to his biological parents, he gets into an argument with a man, not knowing that the man happens to be his father. Fulfilling the first half of his destiny, he kills his father. This incident reveals yet another one of his flaws, his temper.

After Oedipus unknowingly kills his father, the gods put a plague on Thebes, sending down a Sphinx. The Sphinx kept everyone from leaving or entering Thebes, killing travelers and destroying their crops. The only way to defeat him was to solve this riddle, but if anyone were to answer the riddle wrong or do not give an answer at all, they would die. The Sphinx asked Oedipus the same riddle he asked everyone, 'What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night?'. No one had ever solved his riddle before, but Oedipus solves the riddle, saying 'man, who crawls on all fours as a baby; he walks on two legs as an adult; and needs a walking stick when old. ' the Sphinx then committed suicide because it felt it had failed. Oedipus was very clever to solve the riddle that no one else could. The people of the kingdom, grateful to Oedipus, and in need of a new king because their old king supposedly did not have any children to be his heir. So, the people offer him his father's throne and the hand of the newly widowed queen who just happens to be his mother.

Oedipus is completely oblivious to the fact that he has just done exactly what he tried so hard to avoid until his mother discovers the news. Overcome with grief from learning that she has married her own son, she kills herself. After finding his dead mother, Oedipus blinds himself from seeing such a horrible sight. Which is very heroic to have done because not only did he blind himself because it was a horrible thing to see but, he felt guilty for causing his mother's' death. He felt that it was his fault and that he could have avoided his fate, but it was all inevitable. Instead of taking the easy way out and killing himself to end the pain like his mother/wife, he inflicts a life of suffering onto himself. Oedipus leaves Thebes, and his crown, with two of his kids that he made with his mother and lives the rest of his sad life as a blind beggar.

All in all, Oedipus is still widely known as a tragic hero because of his great courage, his quest, and weakness. His courage is shown the most when he solves the riddle of the Sphinx, knowing very well that he could die. His quest is to avoid his inevitable destiny, and his weakness is arguably one of the most important parts of the play. Oedipus' weakness is his quite obviously his inability to accept his destiny. This ended up leading him directly into a tragic life of sadness and denial. This aspect of Oedipus typically makes the audience pity him. They relate to the human characteristics and all the horrible things happening that he cannot avoid. This makes them feel closer to his character. He has so many heroic traits, but a tragic life that cannot be escaped.

10 October 2020
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