What are the two major themes of the play Oedipus Rex?

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two most prominent themes in Oedipus Rex are:

Knowledge, as it relates to oneself, one's family, and one's society at large.  The dominant motif in the play is, of course, sight and blindness.  We have a brash young king with perfect outward sight who is blind to his own self-knowledge and his family history.  Oedipus is blind to rage and arrogance, both of which cause him to make tragic mistakes.  As his foil, we have an old blind prophet in Tiresias who sees only too well these mistakes and tries to warn Oedipus, but, alas, it is too late.

Choices, as they relate to freedom and fate.  Did Oedipus have choices in this play?  Did fate or freedom of choice cause his downfall?  Could he have prevented his family's tragedy?  Yes, he could; otherwise, this play would fall apart and cease to be a tragedy.  Yes, the play is engineered for disaster, but Oedipus speeds up his own downfall by failing to listen to Creon, Tiresias, and most importantly, himself.  Denial of the past is an all too easy way to set oneself up to fail.  But, in the end, Oedipus has victory over his fate, as he chooses to punish himself and suffer for never knowing to begin with.  In this way, Oedipus becomes heroic by realizing that the greatest ethical and moral choice of all is to suffer.