To What Extent Does Oedipus Cause His Own Downfall
Oedipus’ fate was determined by the Oracle, the cause for his demise was himself. One aspect of Oedipus personality that leads to his downfall is his constant search for truth.
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Throughout the play, Oedipus is always trying to discover something whether it be about himself or an attempt at uncovering someone else as an enemy. If he hadn’t been in that mindset, he may have been able to keep himself oblivious from his mistakes. Another aspect of Oedipus personality that causes his misfortune is his hubris.
Oedipus hubris causes him to act impulsively and disregard the advice of others which in the end, doesn’t pay off. At the start of the play Oedipus announces to the Thebans “I shall shrink from nothing in my search to find the murderer of Laius” (pg. 16). Although this is the plan of action that most Thebans would want, in reality, the city and Oedipus have nothing to gain from finding the murderer of Laius but a sense of justice, this highlights Oedipus unnecessary search for truth. Had Oedipus not even begun an in depth search for Laius’ killer, the tragedy would not have taken place.
It was a selfish search for an invaluable piece of information to begin with, that is why his search for the truth is not beneficial. Also, part way through his journey towards his downfall he decides to investigate his own identity. Jocasta advises against it strongly but he ignores her. Him of all people, assuming he recognizes that he has killed people in the past, has a wife old enough to be his mother and has a prophecy foretold about him that is beyond horrifying, chooses to point out his own faults by pursuing his own identity.
He should have taken in to account that he isn’t perfect, and perhaps shedding light on his past for any reason wouldn’t have a positive outcome because no matter how you slice it, Oedipus is a murderer regardless of whom he thought he killed. But he still chooses to follow through with his search. Had he not found out that he was his wife’s son, Jocasta would have no reason to kill herself and he would have no reason to take out his eyes. He could have lived happily even though his wife was also his mother as long as he kept himself from finding out. This is why his personal choice to expose his identity leads to his demise.
In terms of how the play could have ended, Oedipus chooses to search for himself, therefore choosing tragedy. Throughout the play, Oedipus has an overwhelming sense of confidence (his hubris) that isn’t humble in the least; his tragic flaw. With every choice and accusation he makes he has a passionate knowledge that he is doing the right thing, which is untrue. It is his choice to be this cocky though, which is why any consequences resulting from his hubris are no one’s fault but his own. At the start of the play, Tiresius says to Oedipus “Dismiss me, send me home.
That will be the easiest way for both of us to bear our burden. ” (pg. 19) advising Oedipus to end his search, and return to being king of Thebes. But instead of piecing the information together that not only is Tiresius an excellent giver of advice because of his wisdom, and it is possible that the man he killed on his way from Corinth may have been Laius, he selfishly draws to the conclusion that Tiresius is trying to attack him; when Tiresius announces that Oedipus’ is the murderer, Oedipus reacts defensively instead of apologetically, which highlights the fact that Oedipus doesn’t see himself as someone that can do wrong.
His hubris causes him to not only ignore Tiresius’ advice but also to anger and offend him long before Tiresius had revealed anything. Later on in the play, Oedipus says to Creon “that fact shows what a disloyal friend you are” (p. 33) criticizing the fact that Creon must be plotting against him even though he has nothing to gain. This is a mistake, and although there are no direct consequences of his accusation, Creon was on Oedipus side from the beginning, and did all he could to help; by introducing Tiresius to Oedipus.
When we meet Creon again later, after it’s revealed that Oedipus killed Laius, he is aggressive and very cold. Had Oedipus not offended Creon, Creon may have been there with him for the long haul, but instead Oedipus chose to offend his friend through his hubris, choosing to solve the mystery without help, leading to his tragic discovery. Towards the end of the play Jocasta says to Oedipus “In God’s name, if you place any value on your life, don’t pursue the search. It is enough that I am sick to death. ” (pg. 60) regarding Oedipus’ search for identity.
Once again, Oedipus is given very explicit advice that is guaranteed to benefit him, but he wanted to figure out the puzzle, and his hubris leads him to believe he always makes the right decision. So once again, Oedipus not only ignores the advice but he also insults his wife, which is a slap in the face when she is trying her best to save him. Oedipus made the choice to follow through with his search and ignore Jocasta, when if he had been humble and listened, he would have been happy. That is why Oedipus hubris leads to his demise.
The extent of which Oedipus’s failure results from his own flaws is difficult to define, because although the Oracle foretold his misfortune, the series of events had to go hand in hand with his flaws for the tragedy to play out. The same goes for the events, because if his hubris and search for identity were present but the prophecy hadn’t been revealed, Oedipus may not have even ever come to Thebes, and there would be no tragedy. Oedipus was haunted with a dark prophecy, but it is through his flaws that the prophecy did come true…