The story of Oedipus The King revolves around Oedipus' voyage 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 - yet never gives us an answer which we can draw a solid conclusion from. One could prove that Oedipus' decisions and actions are the factors that affect his life, but whether or not "fate" can also encompass a control over one's actions is a question that cycles back to the question of control over fate. In Sophocles' play we are introduced to Oedipus, the protagonist, whose actions and fate determine the course of his life and ultimately 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 Apollo, the Oracle predicts what will ultimately 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 decision 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 driven by his character and conducted under free will. His actions in the play show that it could be free will, not fate, that leads to the discovery of the murder of his father and marriage to his mother. On the opposite side of this, though, is the fact that through all of Oedipus' attempts to dodge 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 from Apollo. Creon suggests that he speak to Oedipus in private, and tells Oedipus "If you want my report in the presence of these...
[pointing to the priest while drawing Oedipus to the palace] I'm ready now, or we might go inside." Oedipus replies, "Speak to us all. I grieve for these, my people more than I fear for my own life." Oedipus could have received the message in private, which would have prevented the others from hearing that Laius' murderer was present in Thebes and must be "banished or paid back blood for blood." As a result, the truth about how and where the murder was committed became public knowledge, and Oedipus' decision 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 destruction. Another aspect, which shows how Oedipus' "free will" contributed to his demise, was his promise to find and avenge Laius' murderer. Despite the fact that Oedipus was unaware of who killed the king or why someone would have wanted him dead, he quickly, openly and freely swore to avenge and banish the killer. He could have sworn to find, capture and question the killer's motives, then kill or banish when satisfied that the murder was unjust. Instead Oedipus' impulsive measures were another step toward his ruin.
Oedipus was quite hasty 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 anxious to show his people that he wanted to rid the city of the terrible plague, but in this decision played a further role in the end. Oedipus' drive to learn the truth about the death of Laius was the most important variable, which shows that his banishment from the city and loss of power and wealth was all controlled by his free will. After Oedipus promises to rid his city of the murderer through exile he places a curse on the murderer and plays detective in search for a killer. During a discussion with Tiresias, Oedipus says, "You know and won't tell? You " re bent on betraying us, destroying Thebes." Oedipus forced Tiresias to reveal that Oedipus was the true murderer.
It was as if a "can of worms" had been opened and another step toward the end was taken. Oedipus' investigation leads to a conversation with Jocasta in which he asks, "Laius - how did he look? Describe him. Had he reached his prime?" Neither Oedipus or Jocasta speaks of the coincidences in their past stories and pretend not to see the truth that would solve the murder and reveal that he had married his mother. As painful as the truth may have been, it was Oedipus' drive to learn the truth that lead to the discovery. This drive was lead by free will to uncover a truth, not fate that it would have happened despite what Oedipus would or would not have done in his life. Greek philosopher, Plato taught, "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 believed that man was rising up and declaring his belief in his own ability, his strength even against the powers of the universe. In the end, Oedipus' actions controlled his destiny, but whether or not his actions were controlled by fate is unanswered. His actions, such as allowing Creon to speak in public about the findings of the Oracle, to once again publicly declaring to avenge Laius' death, to his personal investigation into the murder were controlled by him, not fate. Prior knowledge did not determine Oedipus' destiny; his actions were all conducted independently of any prophecies. It can be concluded that Oedipus was free to mold his destiny and may not have been a mere object in the universe of fate, but the question of exactly which remains through the whole play as an unanswered question.