In Oedipus Rex, is Oedipus' fate sealed from the start?
I need help understanding the question more. Here is some background on the rest of my homework's questions.
Q: Which events in the play may be attributed to Oedipus' character? What events may be attributed to outside forces or circumstances? In light of these considerations is there an overarching point that Sophocles is trying to make? In other words, is Oedipus' fate sealed from the start?
I know its asking if Oedipus's actions or the outside world are what caused his fate. I wanted to know if there was more that the question was asking.
Judging by your synopsis, you have a good understanding of what the question is asking. However, you are also right in believing that there is more to this question than a simple consideration of whether or not Oedipus is responsible for creating his fate (and if so, to what degree is he responsible).
To be clear, the question has three parts.
- Part one asks, what events or outcomes in the play can be directly attributed to Oedipus? One of these would be the falling out he has with his brother-in-law, Creon.
- Part two asks, what events of the play are outside of Oedipus influence or control? The prophecy handed down in his childhood was outside of his control and it is this prophecy that propels Oedipus into action and toward doom.
- Part three asks, which of these dynamics seems to be the stronger force in determining the action of the play (and is Oedipus really responsible for any events in the play if his fate is already determined)?
One way to narrow this whole question down is to look at some particular instances. Oedipus kills his father on the road. Does he do this because it is part of his character to be proud and unyielding? If he were a different type of man, would he have simply gotten out of the way and let the other man pass? Is this murder directly attributable to Oedipus' attitude/personality?
Or, was Oedipus forced to act this way because fate and the gods had put him in conflict with this man on the road (who happened to be his father), thereby creating a situation where a person like Oedipus would act in a predictable and violent manner?
After all, Oedipus is fleeing his fate. This is his intent. The only reason he encounters his father on the road is because he does not want to kill him. We might say that Sophecles presents us with this irony to suggest that Oedipus' situation on the road is either extremely bad luck or is created by the gods, by his fate, and outside of his control.
Indeed, in the end, Oedipus feels that he had no control over the outcome of his life and that this becomes especially true because of his efforts to avoid his fate. Though he is not responsible for the prophecy that set his path, he is the person who carried out all the deeds for which he punishes himself with blindness:
"Oedipus, damned in his birth, in his marriage damned, / Damned in the blood he shed with his own hand!"