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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readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.



e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
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.