Does any character in this play have a choice?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that this becomes one of the most critical elements of the drama.  On one hand, there certainly is choice.  I don't think that Sophocles argues the negation of choice.  There is choice within human consciousness.  Oedipus has choice, Jocasta has choice, and even the blind seer, Tiresias, has choice.  They all have a level of autonomy that is part of their being in the world.  Where Sophocles challenges the reader and his character regarding choice is in a couple of ways.  On one hand, Sophocles suggests that choice is challenged when individuals poised between equally desirable, yet ultimately incompatible courses of action.  Sophocles argues that Oedipus can choose, but his options are limited when he puts himself between the needs of his people as a ruler and the needs of his own sense of self as a man or a private individual.  Both of these spheres collide, making Oedipus' choice not much of a choice at all.  If he wishes to evade responsibility for the truth, he ends up being shamed and living a life less of honor.  If he chooses to embrace truth, as he did, he will have to end up abdicating his throne and suffer the consequences.  Jocasta is much in the same predicament, for she can choose to live with the public shame and embarrassment of marrying her husband's murderer and sleeping with her son or choosing to kill herself, what she ends up choosing.  In this, Sophocles argues that choice is evident in the lives of the characters, as they do end up choosing.  Yet, when posited between such polarizing ends where both ends are certain to result in pain, there is considerable challenge in assessing where choice lies and how effective it actually is.


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