What is a good thesis statement analyzing the chorus's perspective on fate and free will in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While the chorus in Oedipus Rex frequently refers to fate, the members of the chorus actually refer to it more in terms of a fated punishment for wrong doing rather than a lack of free will. Free will is actually very important to the play because without free will Oedipus would not have his fatal character flaw nor would he have made his fatal mistake, both of which make the play a true tragedy. However, the chorus certainly is portrayed as having a very clear understanding that humanity is utterly reliant on the gods. The gods have the power to heal and destroy, and some of that destruction is doled out in the form of fated punishment.

It is very clear that Oedipus made a choice to kill a man, simply because he ran Oedipus off the road, who turned out to be his father. Hence, the chorus refers to any misfortune that befalls Oedipus as being fated from the gods due to Oedipus's transgressions. We especially see the chorus show that fated punishments stem from the choices made out of free will in the passage:

But if someone goes disdainful in hands or speech, not fearing Justice, nor revering the seats of the holy gods, let a bad fate take him. (912-916)

Hence, a thesis that shows the chorus's take on fate vs. free will would analyze the language the chorus uses to express their ideas and what their ideas mean. It could be useful to analyze the chorus's speeches for imagery, diction, and oxymora. Hence, a possible thesis could be something like:

  • In Oedipus Rex, the chorus shows an interplay between fate and free will using diction, imagery, and oxymora, proving that they are ultimately wiser than Oedipus.