Describe how the hamartia in Oedipus makes him the tragic hero in Sophocle' drama.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the question brings out many different issues that need to be distilled in a distinct manner.  In examining the definition of "hamartia," the understanding is that it refers to a "fatal mistake" or some type of calculation taken by the protagonist that proves to be disastrous.  As per the definition, it "is rooted in the notion of missing the mark (hamartanein) and covers a broad spectrum that includes accident and mistake, as well as wrongdoing, error, or sin."  Hamartia, by itself, does not make a tragic hero.  I think that the hamartia has to work in conjunction with the hero's tragic flaw that ends up being the undoing of the protagonist.  In the case of Oedipus, the hamartia was not knowing about his own parenting lineage, causing him to kill his own father and sleep with his mother.  The hamartia is not knowing about his background, while his pride ("hubris") is his tragic flaw.  Both hamartia and hubris are similar and verfy close to one another.  But, I think that the hamartia is the genuine unknowing about his own condition and the hubris is the failure to heed to the counsel that tries to bring it to his awareness in the form dismissiveness that Oedipus directs at the oracle, Tiresias, or advice from Creon.  In the end, I think that the convergence of both concepts help to form the tragically heroic condition of Oedipus in Sophocles' work.

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