FREE WILL VS. FATE IN OEDIPUS REX The great philosopher Socrates believes that humans rule themselves with a combination of fate and free will. In Oedipus Rex a combination of fate and free will contribute to the destruction of Oedipus Rex. Oedipus oracle, his quest for the truth, and his self-blinding all concur to destroy Oedipus life. Before the play begins, Apollo ordains that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Oedipus describes his fears to Jocasta when he tells her that the oracle of Delphi says that, I should lie with my own mother, breed children from whom all men would turn their eyes; and that I should be my father s murderer (1.
2. 749-51). Because of this fear, Oedipus leaves home, only to unknowingly kill his father and set the oracle in motion. As a result of the slaughter of King Laius and his men, Oedipus leaves only one man alive; and that man will also contribute to Oedipus destruction. This unavoidable fate is the key to Oedipus destruction; however, it is Oedipus relentless quest for the truth that leads him to realize that he commits these sins. Oedipus pursuit of the truth also contributes to his destruction.
As a result of his willing inquiry about the murderer of King Laius, the origin of Oedipus birth reveals itself. The servant for whom Oedipus sends for reveals himself to be the shepherd who gives away the baby of Jocasta and Laius. By the shepherd s admission he pitied the baby (2. 4. 1113) and gives the baby away to another shepherd who saved him (2.
4. 1115). Through the shepherd s story, Oedipus realizes that all of the prophecies are true, and that through his exploration of the truth, he damns himself. His arrogant self-assurance is his downfall at this point because he feels that nothing bad can happen to him as a result, when Oedipus learns the truth, he feels so much shame that he blinds himself. Oedipus willingly blinds himself because he feels he can no longer face the world around him. In the final scene Oedipus explains his actions, the blinding hand was my own! How could I bear to see when all my sight was horror everywhere (2.
5. 1288-90) By blinding himself, Oedipus will not have to see anyone who knows about the horrible deeds that he commits. For Oedipus is no longer the envy of all men, now they all turn from him in horror. With the obliteration of his eyes, Oedipus is now dependent upon the support of someone to guide him and a cane. Through a combination of fate and free will, Oedipus completely dismantles his life. At the conclusion of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is blind and leaving his homeland in exile with the knowledge that he commits parricide and incest.
From the story of Oedipus Rex a person learns that no matter how fortunate he is at the moment, at any juncture in time, everything can be taken away from him.