In Oedipus Rex, why is the city suffering from famine?

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mperez-mugg21 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the beginning of the play Oedipus the King by Sophocles, the city of Thebes is under great duress.  Oedipus reports that the crops are dying, the animals are starving, and the women of Thebes are unable to give birth to healthy children.  All of these issues are attributed to what Sophocles calls the "pollution" within the city.  Later, the reader discovers that this "pollution" is actually the killer of the previous king, Laius, when Creon returns from the Oracle to bring this news.  This means that the famine and curse that the city suffers from is directly related to Oedipus himself because he is the person guilty of murdering King Laius.  Moreover, his residence in the city is what directly causes the problems that Thebes faces.  Unfortunately, Oedipus' inability to accept his role in the murder of Laius leaves the city suffering for a long period of time while he searches for the truth, refusing to accept his own role in the city's suffering.