Destined The story of Oedipus the King revolves around the voyage of Oedipus to avoid his own fate, something that in the end he cannot do. This literary work raises many questions regarding fate and its control over our lives, and more interestingly, our control over it, and yet never gives us an answer from which we can draw a solid conclusion. It could be proven that the decisions and actions made by Oedipus are the factors that affect his life, but whether if it is “fate” or not can also include a control over one’s actions is a question that goes back to the question of control over fate.
In Sophocles’ play we are introduced to the protagonist Oedipus, whose actions and fate determines the course of his life and will eventually lead to his downfall, but the question of whether it was strictly fate or strictly his actions remains to be answered. When Oedipus goes to the Oracle, the Oracle predicts what will in the end become of Oedipus, but he does not control Oedipus’ life and actions. It could be said that Oedipus determines his conduct by being the type of man he is and takes steps under free will.
His resolution to hear Creon’s message with others in attendance, his promise to avenge the king’s murder and his drive to learn the truth were all actions motivated by his character and conducted under free will. His actions in the play show that it could be free will, not fate, which leads to the breakthrough of the murder of his father and marriage to his mother. On the other hand is the fact that through all of Oedipus’ attempts to evade his fate, he fulfills what he had been told was his destiny, thus proving fate to be true.
An example of Oedipus making a clear personal choice that affects his life is after Creon returns from Delphi with news. Creon proposes that he speak to Oedipus in private, and tells Oedipus “Is it your pleasure to hear me with all these gathered around us? I am prepared to speak, but should we not go in? ” (890). Oedipus replies, “Let them all hear it. It is for them I suffer, more than myself,” (890). Oedipus could have received the message in private, which would have prohibited the others from hearing that Laius’ murderer was in attendance in Thebes and must “by exile or death, blood for blood,” (890).
Consequently, the truth about how and where the murder was committed became public information, and Oedipus’ judgment to allow Creon to speak in public about his findings from the Oracle was conducted under free will and was a step toward his own ruin. Another portion, which shows how Oedipus’ “free will” contributed to his demise, was his pledge to find and avenge Laius’ murderer. Despite the fact that Oedipus was oblivious of who killed the king or why someone would have wanted him dead, he quickly, openly and freely swore to avenge and exile the killer.
He could have sworn to locate, capture and question the killer’s motives, then kill or exile him when content that the murder was unjust. As an alternative, Oedipus’ impulsive actions lead him in the direction toward his ruin. Oedipus was quite swift when he told Creon and the others at the palace, “Whoever killed the king may decide to kill me too, with the same violent hand, by avenging Laius I defend myself. ” Oedipus was apprehensive to show his people that he wanted to rid the city of the terrible plague, but this assessment played a further role in the end.
Oedipus’ drive to discover the truth about the death of Laius was the most imperative variable, which shows that his exile from the city and loss of power and wealth was all controlled by his free will. subsequent to Oedipus promises to rid his city of the killer through exile he places a curse on the murderer and plays detective in looking for a killer. At some point in a discussion with Tiresias, Oedipus states, “You know and won’t tell? You’re bent on betraying us, destroying Thebes. Oedipus forced Tiresias to divulge that Oedipus was the true murderer. It was as if a “can of worms” had been opened and one more step toward the end was taken. Oedipus’ research leads to a conversation with Iocaste in which he inquires, “Laius’ how did he look? Describe him. ” Neither Oedipus nor Iocaste speaks of the twist of fate in their past stories and act as if they do not see the truth that would unravel the murder and expose that he had married his mother.
As painful as the reality may have been, it was Oedipus’ drive to discover the truth that lead to the breakthrough. This drive was lead by free will to reveal a truth, not fate, that it would have happened regardless of what Oedipus would or would not have done in his life. Greek philosopher, Plato stated, “Man can and does defeat the purposes of the universe. Although he is a creature of the divine Creator, he may so order his life as not to live justly and wisely. He assumed that man was rising up and declaring his faith in his own ability, his strength even against the powers of the universe. Ultimately, Oedipus’ actions controlled his destiny, but whether or not his actions were controlled by fate is unanswered. His actions, such as permitting Creon to speak in public about the findings of the Oracle, to once again openly declare to avenge Laius’ death, to his personal investigation into the murder were controlled by him, not fate.
Prior information did not determine Oedipus’ destiny; his actions were all conducted without help of any prophecies. It can be concluded that Oedipus was free to shape his destiny and may not have been a mere entity in the universe of fate, but the question of exactly which remains through the whole play as an unanswered question. Work Cited Sophocles. “Oedipus the King. ” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 5th Compact ed. New York: Longman, 2007. 887-924.