How has Oedipus' character developed by the end of the play, and what has he gained from his experience?

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Oedipus is a better man at the end of the play because he has learned humility, but not wisdom.

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In the end, Oedipus now recognizes that he is not the authority on everything in the world. Though he was able to answer the Sphinx's riddle, free Thebes of her tyranny, and rule for many years in peace, Oedipus now sees that he is "the gods' abhorrence." Thus, he is...

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"willing" to be lead byCreon, Oedipus's brother-in-law and uncle, who is the new king of Thebes. He was never willing to be led by another's judgment before. Oedipus tells Creon that the god of prophecy, Apollo, clearly set out to "destroy / The parricide, the scoundrel; and I am he." In other words, Oedipus now recognizes his true powerlessness in comparison to the gods; he recognizes their authority and his own weakness, despite the immense pride that he had exhibited for the majority of his adult life. He is, therefore, a better man because he has gained perspective and become humbler as a result of his experiences.

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The key to answering this is to understand that "better" in this context refers to character and self-knowledge rather than external circumstances. It also is useful to know that Sophocles also wrote Oedipus at Colonus, about Oedipus's death, which provides a sequel to the story of Oedipus Rex, in which Oedipus enjoys a peaceful and happy ending in Athens, savoring the hospitality of Theseus and finally, certain of his fate and moral purpose, achieving an apotheosis, dying in a way that makes the secret place of his death a permanent blessing and gift for Athens.

Although when Oedipus marries Jocasta he appears to be enjoying the height of power and respect, he is not truly happy, for his success rests on a false and shaky foundation. He lacks true knowledge of himself and his circumstances. In terms of character, although fundamentally decent, Oedipus is arrogant and oblivious to the harm he causes. His fundamental greatness as a character is that once he understands this, he has the moral courage to see that material success that harms the city and offends the gods is not true happiness; instead, being a good person means seeking a path in which one honors the gods and cares for others. Although the end of Oedipus Rex is tragic, the audience sees Oedipus, although in great pain and distress, starting on that path to redemption and thus being a "better person" than before.

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Oedipus' life is now directed by free will instead of fate. At the end of the play, he gouges out his eyes, leaves Thebes, and abandons his daughters. These are all decisions that he makes despite the painful consequences. Though he lives a miserable existence, he is no longer a blind instrument of fate. He is no longer an instrument that belongs to the oracle. In this sense, he is a better man.

Also, ironically, only after he has lost his physical vision, he is able to see and know who he really is. The most noble and wise man in the play is the blind seer, Tireisias. Blindness, thus, is emblematic of good men in the Theban plays. It is blindness that allows one to overcome hubris and move beyond the control of the gods.

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In one sense, Oedipus is a better man because he has learned humility. In the play's beginning, Oedipus flies in the face of every warning against trying to discover too much about the mysteries of the gods and trying to change his fate. By the end, he learns that he cannot master his fate, and that some secrets are better left buried. This knowledge comes at a high price (his innocence), so high, in fact, that he puts out his eyes in order never to see (or know) anything new ever again.

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In what sense may Oedipus be regarded as a better man, though a less fortunate one? At the end of the play than at the beginning—what experience does he gain?

Oedipus stabs his eyes and blinds himself because, as Teiresias has said, he has been the one who is blind.  In his arrogance, his tragic ignorance, Oedipus refused to believe that he could be the cause of the plague besetting the city of Thebes.  He arrogantly believed that he escaped fate by having left Corinth where his supposed parents live.  However, in a strange twist of fate, he encountered his real father who had insulted him.  In anger, Oedipus knocked this man out of his carriage and killed him.

Oedipus blinds himself in order to humble himself; he will be led by another for the rest of his life.  Understanding that his arrogance has been his tragic mistake, Oedipus now forces himself to learn humility.  He will remember the words of Kreon:

Think no longer/That you are in command here, but rather think/How, when you were, you served your own destruction.

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In what way is Oedipus a better man (though less fortunate) at the end of Oedipus Rex?

There will be many interpretations to this answer.  I would suggest that one way in which Oedipus is a better man is through the wisdom he has gained as a result of the horrific revelations.  He has learned that there has to be a proper respect for the fates that govern an individual and that all of one's free will has limitations.  At the same time, I think that Oedipus has learned that his pride did not help him in his attempts.  Additionally, Oedipus has learned the nature of the "truth" in his life, the reality that enveloped him, yet laid concealed from him.  There was shame in the revelations, but out of this shame has come a new way of life that is more honest and forthright about his state of being in the world.

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In what way is Oedipus a better man (though less fortunate) at the end of Oedipus Rex?

There is no one right way to answer this question, but it is possible to say a few things. First, he is a better man, because of all his sufferings and hardship. Usually a person who goes through a lot learns much. The school of suffering educates well. In Oedipus' case, he probably would not gotten to where he is at the end of play apart from suffering. Second, we can say that Oedipus by the end of the play really knows what he has done and who he is. The self-knowledge is a true sign of maturity. Before this he was living a life that was filled with lies or half-truths. From a literary perspective, even though he is now blind, he truly sees.

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