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Themes and Symbolism in Oedipus the King

IOP IB-20 English

Joshua Chies

on 16 April 2014

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Transcript of Themes and Symbolism in Oedipus the King

Themes and Symbolism in Oedipus the King
by Joshua Chies

Background Information
Sophocles, the author of Oedipus The King, was an ancient Greek tragedian philosopher.
Born 496 BC, died 406 BC.
He has written over 123 plays but only 7 are formally recovered.
The Oedipus series consists of 5 known books, but only three exist.
He specialized in tragedies focusing on pain and suffering for the audience’s enjoyment.

Fun Facts
Sophocles invented lip syncing.
In a recently discovered document by Shakespeare, he claims Sophocles was a large influence on his writing.

Common Themes
Pain and suffering

Fate is evident in Oedipus in the forms of oracles, prophets, and Greek gods.
An oracle is one that gives messages that are obscure and ambiguous.
Prophets are revered peoples that predict and gives clues about the future.
Greek Gods are mythological beings that Greeks would look up to and offer supplements to. They would dictate daily events as people’s lives revolved around their being.

Fate Cont'd:
Apollo is the prophet in Oedipus.
Apollo is the Greek god of healing, sun, music, and prophecy.
Fate is evident in that both Oedipus and Jocasta attempt to avert their prophecies but both end up having it come true regardless.
Sophocles wanted to express that humans are powerless before fate or the gods, and that a cautious humility is the best attitude towards life.

Both a symbol and a theme, vision is used to represent knowledge and insight.
Oedipus is originally known for his clear sightedness for solving the Sphinx’s riddle.
He is truly blind to the truth that his life is a lie.
Blinds himself in hopes to not accept the shame and truth on the people of Thebes faces.
Apollo’s connection in this theme is that Apollo is the god of light.

The first mentioning of the theme of age is the answer to the Sphinx’s riddle, “What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?“. The answer being man.
The theme of age is also present in Oedipus having a child like innocence as to the events unfolding around him.
Age is important in the book due to the theory known as, “The Oedipus Complex”.

Pain and suffering
Oedipus’s ankles were pinned together as he was abandoned in a mountain top.
The prophecy coming true of Oedipus slaying his father and sleeping with his mother.
Oedipus gouges out his eyes.
Oedipus and his daughters being exiled from the city of Thebes.

The name Oedipus is translated to, “swollen foot”, which does occur to Oedipus when Laius pins his feet/ankles together as an infant.
The injury scars his ankles marking him apart from others, making his fate different than others.
The pin/injury symbolizes Oedipus being confined and restrained by the prophecy. His containment to the prophecy means he can not detour his fate.

Crossroads symbolize a crucial decision where each path results in different outcomes.
At the actual crossroads in the story, Oedipus is faced with a decision of whether to kill or obey Laius.
Crossroads symbolize fate and the power of prophecy rather than freedom/choice.

Fun Fact
All the tragedy Oedipus's family suffers is said to be caused by Laius.
Laius tutored the son of a king.
Abduction and raping.
Eternal suffering was cast on all future blood relations to Laius.
Fun Fact
Question: Who was Apollo's twin sister?
Artemis was his twin sister, and his father was Zeus.
A family has 6 male children, each male child has two sisters. How many children are in the family?

I have two arms, but fingers none. I have two feet, but cannot run. I carry well, but I have found I carry best with my feet off the ground. What am I?
Full transcript