What is the relevance of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex to modern times?  What is the relevance of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex to modern times?  

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Oedipus Rex grapples with the concept of determinism, the philosophy that "all events, including moral choices," are predetermined by "previously existing causes" (Britannica.com). It also implicitly supports the theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy. A prophecy is considered "self-fulfilling" when it comes true only because it was predicted to.

The conflict...

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Oedipus Rex grapples with the concept of determinism, the philosophy that "all events, including moral choices," are predetermined by "previously existing causes" (Britannica.com). It also implicitly supports the theory of the self-fulfilling prophecy. A prophecy is considered "self-fulfilling" when it comes true only because it was predicted to.

The conflict centers around the prophecy that Oedipus's parents, Jocasta and Creon, receive. Hearing that their son will kill his father and marry his mother, the king and queen send their child away to a far-off kingdom. As things turn out, however, their very action serves to fulfill the prophecy. Oedipus kills his father on the road, and takes his mother to wife. Despite Creon and Jocasta's efforts to avert the prediction, it comes true.

Or, is it because Creon and Jocasta try to avert the prophecy that it comes true? Would the foretelling have proven true if the couple had left it alone? If so, perhaps the event was, indeed, predetermined. Perhaps the parents had no power to protect themselves from their son. On the other hand, if Jocasta and Creon did ensure the prophecy's fulfillment, this raises the question of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

What would have happened if the king and queen never heard the prediction? Would it still have come to pass?

Both determinism and self-fulfilling prophecies are pertinent philosophies, nowadays. While the two aren't mutually exclusive beliefs, they are each relevant considerations in today's day and age. Consider the implications of determinism. Do you think all events are predetermined? If so, what are the implications of determinism in the world? In terms of the self-fulfilling prophecy, how can negative predictions affect the hearer? Such considerations display the timelessness of Sophocles's themes in Oedipus Rex.

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The story may be old, and from a culture that no longer exists, but it has entered our popular culture. Oedipus was already well known when Freud picked him up and used him to develop his famous Oediplus Complex theory, which is so disturbing that most people know about it.
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If we look at some of the central moral interests and thematic interests of Oedipus Rex, we can pull out a number of relevant ideas:

  • Ignoring or hiding problems doesn't fix anything. You can't just hide your head in the sand...
  • Guilt stems from one's regret, not necessarily from one's actions. Context defines justice and injustice, crime and legality.
  • Secrets can do harm and so can the truth.

Each of these ideas can be applied in various ways to today's world and tomorrow's.

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One aspect of the contemporary relevance of Oedipus Rex involves the play's lessons about the need for leaders to question facile assumptions, doubt their first impulses, and seek the fullest possible information before making decisions with enormous consequences.

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Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is a complex piece of literature and there are many themes that are applicable to our modern world. The theme that is most applicable is human pride or what the Greeks call "hubris." Oedipus all throughout the play believed that he could solve the problem of the plague of Thebes. He failed to realize that he was the problem. In short, he overestimated himself and did not know himself at the same time.

The financial crisis is an example. All the "experts" out there believe that they could solve the problem, but they fail to realize that many of them are part of the problem. For example, if it is bad that the banks are too big to fail, then why did they make the banks bigger? If overspending is the problem, why do they want consumers to spend even more?

The dynamics here are a universal formula for disaster. People overreach and hence they are the problem. The message of Oedipus Rex will always resonate with humanity, because there is a tragic flaw in all of us.

 

 

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