Literaturehas always been an infinite realm of ideas, morals, and trains of thought. Although thesphere of literature is encircled with extreme diversity of thought, its core is focused onone theme: man. All literature carries with itself three main characteristics: it is written byman, for man, and about man. Oedipus the King, the great Greek tragedy by theunparalleled philosopher, Sophocles, is no exception to literature’s domain.
It deals withone king, Oedipus, and his plight to avenge the death of his predecessor, King Laios. Inhis determined search to find the murderer, he establishes a proclamation which woulddemand the banishment and even the death of the murderer. In his ironic action, the readerdiscovers that this murderer that Oedipus is so determined to discover is none other thanOedipus himself. In adhesion to the definition of literature, this tragic plot reveals to thereader three main commentaries about the nature of man: man cannot escape his past,pride is the sin which leads man to greater evils, and although the life of man is in itself apositive good, there will always be a shadow of terrible tragedy that falls across it. All throughout literature, many works have portrayed characters who carry withthem a dark and gloomy past, and try to tear this shameful history of their lives from thebooks of their life.
Unfortunately, this is impossible due to the fact that the past is aprecursor to the present which, in turn, determines ones future. It is ones past that makesone what he or she is today. For example, if an individual committed ruthless acts such astheft or murder, was not caught by the law, and later realizes that that particular aspect ofhis or her life has caused them great grief and regret, he or she will make the effort tochange and become a new individual. Let us say that individual becomes one who caresabout the welfare of others and takes social action against the injustices of society. Thisindividual became what he or she is today because of an incident which occurred in his ofher past. This catching up of the past need not always be negative and be portrayed assome type of revenge infringed upon the individual possibly due to a vile incident in thepast, but the past will always effect the future and its toll is inevitable.
As proclaimed by the Catholic church in the middle ages, seven deadly sins existwhich ultimately lead to the loss of salvation by the soul which indulges in such evils. Ofthe seven, pride has been the one which serves as the catalyst for the remaining six. Pridecreates in an individual a disposition of excessive self-love and the need to be better thananother. Once a person has excessive pride, he or she must have the satisfaction ofknowing they are better and must prove this “higher status” through material possessionsand/or power. This has led to the next sin, greed.
This domino effect will continue on untilthe individual recognizes his or her faults and reconciles, or until he or she has immersedthemselves in the totality of evil and suffers the consequences through death or horriblesuffering. As evidenced in this work, pride was one of the factors which helped to createthe tragic plot of the story. Both King Laios and Oedipus exhibited the characteristics ofpride. When King Laios was traveling down the path where the three roads met, he andhis men encountered a man walking alongside named Oedipus. King Laios, in his need toshow he was more powerful and of a higher status, requested his men to run Oedipus offthe road.
Oedipus was angered by this show of egotism, and in his need to show he wasnot someone who would take such an act, he went as far as to kill all but one of thetraveling party, even the king himself. This show of pride, in the fulfillment the prophecy,contributed to the downfall of the protagonist and set the stage for the plot. Man, through the definition of literature, is a fallible creature who is susceptible tothe temptations of the immoral. It is in mans nature for him to err.
It is also inconcordance with the very nature of the universe that he should suffer for the actions ofhis errors. This brings into view the third commentary about man and his existence: thatalthough the life of man is in itself a positive good, there will always be a shadow ofterrible tragedy that falls across it. This shadow is always cast by either or both of twodifferent bodies: an unconscious error committed by an individual, and/or an errorcommitted due to some flaw in mans nature. In this Greek tragedy, the protagonistsuffered through an aspect of his own nature which in Greek is called hubris, or as todayssociety knows it, the deadly sin of pride. His pride led him to act irrationally in the incidentat the place where three roads met, where he unknowingly committed the act of regicide,and later realizes that he also has committed parricide, and fulfilled the prophecy of hisdestiny.
Man himself is not omnipotent, but a fragile, mortal being who unavoidably must As in all literature, the main objective which exudes from each literary workapplies itself to the existence of man. In the Greek tragedy, Oedipus the King, threedissertations of human nature are exhibited. These three are: man cannot escape his past,pride is the sin which leads man to greater evils, and although the life of man is in itself apositive good, there will always be a shadow of terrible tragedy that falls across it. Theplot in this renowned Greek tragedy emphasizes the role of literature. With the protagonisthaving to suffer for the acts he committed in his past, to the flaw of pride which led him tocommit the act, and finally, to the consequences he had to suffer due to his actions, itclearly states and exhibits how the actions of the characters in this story pertain to thecommon individual not of only the society of Sophocles time, but also to the individual ofBibliography: