Theme of Free Will versus Fate • Central theme – tension between individual choice and fate. • Choices are signifigant – like O’s decision to pursue knowledge of identity • HOWEVER: fate responsible for O’s incest and many critical events of play. • By elevating importance of fate, Sophocles suggests characters not fully responsible for actions.
TIRESIAS • What will come will come. Even if I shroud it all in silence.OEDIPUS • What will come? You're bound to tell me that.TIRESIAS • I'll say no more. Do as you like, build your anger to whatever pitch you please, rage your worst – • (lines 388-391) • Tiresias insists that, regardless of what he says or does, fate will play itself out.
JOCASTAA prophet? Well then, free yourself of every charge! • Listen to me and learn some peace of mind: no skill in the world, nothing human can penetrate the future. Here is proof, quick and to the point. • An oracle can to Laius one fine day (I won't say from Apollo himself, but his underlings, his priests)and it said that doom would strike him down at the hands of a a son, our soon, to be born of our own flesh and blood. • But Laius, so the report goes at least, was killed by strangers, thieves, at a place where three roads meet...my son – he wasn't three days old and the boy's father fastened his ankles, had a henchman fling him away on a barren, trackless mountain. • There, you see? Apollo brought neither thing to pass. My baby no more murdered his father than Laius suffered – his wildest fear – death at his own son's hands. That's how the seers and all their revelations mapped out the future. Brush them from your mind. (779-897) • Jocasta denies the accuracy of prophecies, but ironically uses another true prophecy to defend her claim.
Theme of Determination • Determination: one of Oedipus's and his mother's primary character traits. • O & J driven, at times stubbornly, to pursue goals. • Determination in O linked to hubris • Proves more of a flaw than asset to O
JOCASTAStop – in the name of god, if you love your own life, call off this search! My suffering is enough.OEDIPUSCourage! Even if my mother turns out to be a slave, and I a slave, three generations back, you would not seem common.JOCASTAOh, no, listen to me, I beg you, don't do it.OEDIPUSListen to you? No more. I must know it all, must see the truth at last.JOCASTANo, please – for your sake – I want the best for you. (1163-1170) • Jocasta begs Oedipus to stop in his search for the truth, as she realizes that he is her son, and that the truth will only cause him pain. Oedipus's stubborn determination will lead him to his downfall.
Theme of Wisdom & Knowledge • O = seeker of knowledge and truth. • Struggles to uncover Laius’s murder and his own identity, despite numerous warnings he should leave truth alone. • His pursuit of knowledge and truth results in ruin: O uncovers his fate, which he was better off not knowing.
Literary Elements in Oedipus • Symbolism: Something that on the surface is its literal self but which also has another meaning or even several meanings. A symbol represents an idea. For example, a sword may be a sword and also symbolize justice. • A motif is any repeated element that has symbolic significance in a story.
Motif of Sight v. Blindess • This motif of seeing and not seeing is laced throughout entire play. • Example: Tiresias literally blind, but can see clearly the horror that is Oedipus's past, present, and future. • Oedipus NOT blind, but he's completely blind to dreadful fate gods placed upon him. • O's ignorance is even more ironic because he was made famous for keen insight - solving riddle of Sphinx.
The Scars on Oedipus’s Feet • O's feet pierced and bound as baby. O survived, but left with scars on feet. His name in Greek translates to "swollen foot." • O's scarred feet more than a little symbolic. They highlight that he was marked for suffering from birth. • Also highlight the irony of O's ignorance - name points attention to scarred feet (keys to discovering his identity). O doesn’t realize true identity til too late. J's ignorance also – why didn't she clue in to the name long ago?
The Crossroads • Crossroads - traditional symbol of choice in literature. • O's fate predetermined from birth. Gods decided necessary for O to have tragic life. O does make fateful choice at crossroads, but one he was predestined to make