Throughout history, writers and philosophers have expressed their views about how the life of man is ultimately defined in their works. The Greeks have played their part in this quest. One of the great plays of the ancient Greek world that led the way for others was Sophocles Oedipus Rex. In this play, Sophocles shows us a chapter from the life of man. Throughout the book, he hints at the idea that life poses a riddle for man to solve thereby being a quest for the answer. He also hints to us that life is seemingly predetermined by the gods desires, giving rise to a fated world.
Finally, Sophocles also believes that life is filled with paradox and irony. Given these difficulties, Sophocles regards the life of man with utmost respect and admiration. In Oedipus Rex, it is Oedipus who represents Sophocles ideal human hero. He displays the defining qualities of a morally correct human. Oedipus, unlike Odysseus in the Odyssey, another Greek work, had no divine influence, yet he still is able to continue for the truth after much hardship. Given all the circumstances, Oedipus still manages to live through to the end without losing composure.
Sophocles would definitely honor such a man. Both Oedipus life and his kingdom were filled with riddles, paradoxes, and mysteries. Oedipus beginning and ending at Thebes both arose from the riddle of the oracle. Without his parents confrontation with the oracle, Oedipus would not have been cast away from Thebes in the first place. Yet without the riddle of the sphinx, Oedipus would not have arrived at his royal position. This could be Sophocles method to involve our minds, letting us know that every action we take has an effect on us later in life. At Thebes he is bothered by the plague of the city.
For this mystery, Oedipus consistently strives for the truth, disregarding all tries to stop his quest. In a way, the riddles represent a much more broader and significant part of mans trials. Oedipus own encounter with the sphinx shows his insight upon life. Oedipus is a example for man from all his experiences in each stage: early childhood, mid-life climax, and downfall after tragedy. He gains knowledge into the definition of life at each step. Although it may seem universal for all men to live through this cycle, Oedipus dealings with riddles also plague him with tragedy, ignorance, and innocence.
This makes him more of an inspiration to man. In Oedipus the Kings world, it was the gods who set the fate for all. Both Oedipus and Laius had consulted oracles, which are derived from the gods without human intervention. Here, Sophocles seems to show us that life comes to us all as a certain, fixed object that has already been set to the gods desires. Whatever will happen, does happen. Man may think and believe that he is in control from his actions, but this can be merely regarded as trickery by the gods. Man does have free will, because no one forces you to do anything.
Instead, it is the persons character that plays part of his future. With Oedipus, it is his own character that fulfills the prophecy. After consulting the oracle at Pytho, Oedipus leaves Cornith because of his own family morality. He does not want “to kill his father or sleep with his mother,” but attempting to avoid it complicates matters. Oedipus is Sophocles inspiration for man, because he lives to be a truth-seeker, no matter how others may impede in his path. Oedipus follows morality and accepts responsibility for his actions, whether they were intentional or not. No one else in the play has enough courage to do so.
Looking at Jocasta, we can see how she attempts to soothe Oedipus and tells him to let it go time after time, “Then lay no more of them to heart, not one”. She also takes the quick way out of matters. The old Theben shepherd proves to be even worse, seeing how he never tells the truth unless threatened. Jocasta and the shepherd act to amplify Oedipus heroism. By contrasting Oedipus, they represent Sophocles method of telling us the uniqueness of a hero. As we see, the hero is unlike others, Oedipus realizes that his actions for knowledge may result in pain and suffering, which to him is better than ignorance and happiness.
After all, it was for the good of the city. He had already saved the city once with his intellect, therefore it is his duty to do so again to the best to his ability. In the end he even punishes himself, once again showing responsibility and justice for his actions. Like any other man, Oedipus also has certain character flaws. At times, he shows too much hubris, and arrogance. He believes that he is able to understand and conquer all, yet this may be one of the reasons for his downfall. In combination with this flaw, we find ignorance in him too.
Oedipus unknowingly curses himself when he speaks of punishment for the murderer. He also blindly accuses Creon of being an enemy, “Youre quick to speak, but I am slow to grasp you, for I have found you dangerous, and my foe. In both these situations, he acts without evidence. Even though he commits these violations when he is hotheaded, he displays irrational thought, something everyone can do at one time or another. Given all these traits, we see that Oedipus was a great man and becomes a hero at the end. He pursued the truth at whatever personal cost and he had the strength to accept and endure it when found.