Identify the use of power creating justice in Oedipus Rex.I'm writing a composition and I have to identify one use of power creating justice in this play, I can't talk about injustice only the use...

Identify the use of power creating justice in Oedipus Rex.

I'm writing a composition and I have to identify one use of power creating justice in this play, I can't talk about injustice only the use of justice. Could someone help me with this please? thanks Joelle

Expert Answers
e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most distinct example of power creating justice from this play comes in the murder of Oedipus father. For as long as Oedipus possesses power, his actions on the road to Thebes remain justified and acceptable. When he falls from his position of power, the murder becomes a crime. 

In retrospect, we see that Oedipus power served as the only definition of justice regarding this event.

Years ago as Oedipus made his way to Thebes, he encountered another man on the road. This other man refused to make way for Oedipus and Oedipus refused to make way for him. Ultimately, Oedipus drove the man off the road, able to use his superior strength to do so. 

O three paths and hidden groves and the 
narrow oak coppice at the triple crossroads, (1420) 
which drank my own blood from my father 
from my own hands...

This act was not deemed a crime (while the man was still not known to be Oedipus' father). Oedipus was the stronger man and so had the right to use the road, according to his own interpretation. And it is Oedipus' interpretation that prevails. We know this because Oedipus is not seen as a criminal, though his action on the road is no secret. 

Only later, when the facts become clear does this act become a crime. This is true because Oedipus loses his moral power. The murder becomes a terrible mistake when it is seen as the first step toward the fulfillment of his dark fate. 

In his pride, instigated at the moment of killing Laius for pushing him off the road, he has allowed his tragic flaw to bring about not only his own downfall, but that too of his wife, his children, his city, and his legacy.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For Oedipus, power creating justice would have to be evident in his own blinding and self- exile from Thebes.  Once confronted with the horrible truth of both who he is and how this has impacted both his public and private world, Oedipus blinds himself and then asks for mercy on his children and he leaves Thebes in self- exile.  This is an example of power creating justice in a couple of ways.  The first is that Oedipus asserts power in a situation where he believed he had it, but really did not.  In his own blinding, Oedipus recognizes that he now has power.  He really lacked it, even though he believed that he possessed it.  In taking his own sight, he is able to assert some level of power that helps to resolve this disconnect between believing he had power and reality- wise, lacking it.  The second issue here is the issue of justice.  There is little that can be done to restore justice or a moral order to what has happened in Thebes.  Oedipus feels that through his own actions of blinding himself and then going into self- exile, he feels that some justice has been restored.  The person who is responsible has been punished and there is a belief that what he has done will help to bring order and redemption to Thebes.  Oedipus is such a compelling figure precisely because he is able to assert power to restore justice even when both elements are absent in his word.  Oedipus' actions restore the moral and ethical order to a world that seems to lack it.  It is here where power creating justice becomes intrinsic to Oedipus' characterization.