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Do you think that Oedipus has a fatal flaw of pride which leads to the play's...

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rayraygray | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:30 PM via web

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Do you think that Oedipus has a fatal flaw of pride which leads to the play's terrible consequences?

Why or why not? The idea is that those who suffer from "hubris" , excessive pride, are so proud—so certain of their own superiority—that their judgment is warped and they make terrible mistakes.

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sskyberg | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM (Answer #2)

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Oedipus has a definite flaw when you consider his extreme pride.  He does not seem to understand the truth of things because his pride gets in the way of truly seeing the depth of things, instead of only looking at the surface of conflicts, which tends to be bring him such mistakes.  For example, so that you can relate it to something...have you ever known someone to think that they are perfect in every way? Well, if this person does not come down to reality, they will not understand that there is no such thing as perfection and there's always room for improvement, therefore, the idea of perfection has taken over the person's ability to believe that there is room for improvement; just as Oedipus's pride has taken over the ability to cope with conflict. 

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katemschultz | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM (Answer #3)

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Oedipus is often considered a tragic Greek hero with the fatal flaw of excessive pride, or hubris.  He refuses to listen to Creon and Teiresias, among other, convinced that he couldn't possibly be the cause of the curse.   Doing this angers the gods, and causes the punishment for Oedipus to be far worse that it could have been.  He is impetuous and focus solely on finding the cause of the curse--so the Thebans can yet again celebrate him for doing something good for the town. 

However, put yourself in Oedipus' shoes (or sandals...or swollen feet).  He's a very well-liked and respected king.  A prophet (who they had great respect for) tells him that he killed their previous king.  How would you react?  Many people who call Teiresias crazy, and send him away, like Oedipus did, especially if Teiresias doesn't have any further explanation.  I, for one, find it hard to believe that at that point Oedipus didn't think, "Well, I did kill that one guy on the way here..."  Or, perhaps he did, and he's trying to cover it up with his hubris.  Interesting, since we don't know what's going on in Oedipus' head.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM (Answer #4)

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Oedipus does not have a fatal flaw. This is firstly because the concept of fatal flaw or tragic flaw is based on an old mistranslation of Aristotle. Aristotle didn't think - at all - that tragedy was a matter of a flaw that caused the hero to descend from high fortune into misery, but a hamartia - a mistake.

Oedipus is a man who makes a mistake, long, long before the play begins: in rage, at a crossroads, he kills a man, who in actual fact is his father. It's nothing to do with pride, anyway - it would have to be temper.

Oedipus, throughout Sophocles' play, acts as he does partially out of a sense that he is the great riddle-solver (of course, he won the throne of Thebes by solving the Sphinx's riddle), but also (and this is always bizarrely overlooked by tragic-flaw-ists) because he is an excellent king. Thebes, remember, is suffering from a dreadful plague, and the Oracle has told Oedipus that removing the murderer within the city is the only way to end the plague.

Oedipus is acting as a good king and is determined to free hsi people from the plague. Nothing will stand in his way. Is that pride? Perhaps a little bit. But surely, much, much more than that, it's the actions of a good king determined to free Thebes from the plague. He is, he says, even prepared to sacrifice himself if this happens: and, as it turns out, he does.

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jillyfish | Student , Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted February 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM (Answer #5)

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Perhaps you could say that Oedipus is simply a helpless pawn in his own pre-ordained life story.

The Oracle said he would kill his father and marry his mother. No matter what actions his parents took to prevent this prophesy from coming true, he still killed his father and married his mother.

Is he to blame for his life's events? He was only a baby when they were fixed. Perhaps we should blame the Gods.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 28, 2009 at 6:13 AM (Answer #7)

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Oedipus is a prideful man.  He vows to find the person who killed the King, and he does...it's himself.  He is too full of pride to understand that when he came to town, the man he killed was his father and King, and then he married his mother to fulfill the prophecy he was trying so hard to escape.  He could have stopped the whole thing once he realized the soothsayer was telling him the truth, but his pride keeps him bouyed for "the rest of the story" until he plunges, head first into a sea of guilt.

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irum | Student , Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 10, 2009 at 7:57 AM (Answer #8)

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Obviously, there is the fatal flaw of pride in oedipus' character which leads him towards his own tragedy. the hubris appears at many places. for example,when he flees from CORINTH,because of knowing that he would kill his father and would marry his mother.he feels pride in escaping from his fate.which in fact was not his victory but it lead him towards the real tragedy.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted June 2, 2009 at 2:59 PM (Answer #9)

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I agree with Post #4, he does not have a flaw but suffers from hamartia--an offense committed in ignorance. he killed his father where "the three roads meet," but he didn't even know who his real father was.  And, to be king, one must have pride and confidence, and why would he not have pride after solving the riddle of the Sphinx.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:19 AM (Answer #10)

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Oedipus does not have a fatal flaw. This is firstly because the concept of fatal flaw or tragic flaw is based on an old mistranslation of Aristotle. Aristotle didn't think - at all - that tragedy was a matter of a flaw that caused the hero to descend from high fortune into misery, but a hamartia - a mistake.

Oedipus is a man who makes a mistake, long, long before the play begins: in rage, at a crossroads, he kills a man, who in actual fact is his father. It's nothing to do with pride, anyway - it would have to be temper.

Oedipus, throughout Sophocles' play, acts as he does partially out of a sense that he is the great riddle-solver (of course, he won the throne of Thebes by solving the Sphinx's riddle), but also (and this is always bizarrely overlooked by tragic-flaw-ists) because he is an excellent king. Thebes, remember, is suffering from a dreadful plague, and the Oracle has told Oedipus that removing the murderer within the city is the only way to end the plague.

Oedipus is acting as a good king and is determined to free hsi people from the plague. Nothing will stand in his way. Is that pride? Perhaps a little bit. But surely, much, much more than that, it's the actions of a good king determined to free Thebes from the plague. He is, he says, even prepared to sacrifice himself if this happens: and, as it turns out, he does.

This response is right on target.  The concept of tragic flaw is one that occurs in Shakespearean plays and it is erroneous to apply it to the plays of Sophocles.  For, in Aristotle's Poetics, the definition of Greek tragedy includes no such tragic flaw.  As robertwilliam so cogently states, the tragedy develops because of the hubris of Oedipus.

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