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Should Oedipus forgive himself in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

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lovekblue | Student, Grade 11 | Salutatorian

Posted February 13, 2012 at 5:07 AM via web

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Should Oedipus forgive himself in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 13, 2012 at 5:48 AM (Answer #1)

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This is a hard question, because the idea of forgiveness is not really something that is embedded in the Greek culture. Forgiveness is more of a Christian concept. Hence, to put that idea back into the time of Sophocles is sort of anachronistic. However, with that said, there are few observations that might help in thinking about the issues at hand, which lead to his "forgiveness."

First, even though Oedipus was filled with hubris and pride and these qualities blinded him, he acted unwittingly. He did not intentionally marry his mother and kill his father. The ancients did distinguish between intentional and unintentional transgressions against the gods.

Second, when we introduce the idea of fate, things get complicated. In other words, if Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother, then his responsibility is mitgated at least a little. These two points lead to the fact that he should forgive himself.

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florine | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted February 14, 2012 at 4:36 AM (Answer #2)

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    First, the death of Laius, who was killed by his own son appears as the corollary of Laius's wish to kill his own child, Oedipus, because of a prediction. The prediction said that Oedipus would kill his father and wed his mother. So, the parricide is the counterpart of the father's infanticidal wish. Tiresias, the seer is rebuked by Oedipus because he won't reveal the truth to him. It is, therefore, consistent with the rest of the story if Oedipus, seeing at last, has to become blind. The whole story revolves around the notions of mimesis and nemesis.

 Indeed, Interestingly enough, the pin used by his father to tie Oedipus's feet together (That's why Oedipus was nicknamed "swollen foot") when he was a child and almost died is reminiscent of the pin used by Oedipus to "pluck" his own eyes after Jocasta had hanged herself.

    Nevertheless unlike his father who attempted to get rid of him, he loved his two daughters dearly, a most redeeming feature: "my two darlings"; "my dearest, my two daughters; "do not take them from me."

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