Although Ahab and Oedipus have diverse styles of leadership, their similar personalities guide both of them to similar tragic ends. They share many characteristics of a good leader, which is a major reason for their previous success, but they also share many bad personality traits, which cause their downfalls. Throughout "Oedipus Rex", Oedipus displays many good qualities that make him a successful leader. In the beginning of the story, the author tells the story of how Oedipus became King of Thebes. Sophocles explains that Oedipus solved the riddle of the sphinx and by doing so he liberated the people of Thebes and won the crown. As king, Oedipus led with determination, confidence, and responsibility.
After Tiresias accused Oedipus of murdering the previous king, Laius, the people of Thebes begin to doubt Oedipus and turn against him. Oedipus responds by saying, "Ask your questions. I shall not be proved a murderer." (p. 39) This quote is an example of his determination to prove his innocence to the people of Thebes and maintain their respect for him. This determination comes from his strong self-confidence and desire to show his people that they should have believed him. Not only will Oedipus fight for his innocence, he is completely confident that he will win.
After Oedipus comes to the painful realization that he actually did kill King Laius, he shows true leadership by accepting the consequences. "The evil is mine; no one but me can bear its weight." (p. 100) By taking responsibility, Oedipus demonstrates his leadership, and love for the people of Thebes. In Melville's "Moby Dick", Captain Ahab, like Oedipus, displays many traits of a leader. He shows courage, determination, and powerful speaking, which he uses to gain the trust and respect of his crew.
At the beginning of the journey to sea, the crew enters the ship and they sail for several days. The men are all anxious to meet the legendary Captain Ahab. Several days later, Ahab orders the whole crew to assemble before him. He delivers a powerful speech about their mission to capture the White Whale, and the crew agrees to go after him with Ahab.
Ahab offers a Spanish ounce of gold to the crewmember that spots Moby Dick first. In excitement, the crew yells and they take an oath of violence and revenge against Moby Dick. Unlike Oedipus, who is fighting against his people to prove his innocence, Ahab has managed to gain the support of his crew to help him with his quest. Although it seems that Ahab has the better style of leadership of the two men, they both end up in defeat. Ahab and Oedipus possess many similar personality traits that cause them to fail in their quests.
Ahab's determination and stubbornness cause him to lead his crew on perilous voyage that ends with death. Oedipus, who has a short temper and is very stubborn, ends up being proven guilty because of these flaws in his personality. In the beginning, Tiresias makes it clear that Oedipus has a bad temper by saying, "You blame my temper, but your not aware of the one you live with." (p. 22) It is obvious that Oedipus feels that he is too powerful to be manipulated by worthless prophets and because of this he becomes hostile towards Tiresias. As the story continues, the Chorus explains Oedipus' character by saying, "He lost control of himself." (p. 33) This shows that the people of Thebes are well aware of his problem.
Oedipus is too stubborn to give in to the accusation and he continues to fight for his innocence. Towards the end of the story, Oedipus reveals a past encounter he had at the crossing of three highways. He describes it to his wife, Jocasta, and says that he crossed paths with a herald and a man driving a horse drawn wagon. The driver tried to push him away from the wagon, and in defense he struck Oedipus over the head. Oedipus continues to describe how he lost his temper and in rage he killed the driver, the herald, and the man in the wagon. This shocking story gives another example of his temper as a bad quality, which is a cause of his downfall.
Oedipus is also disparaged by the public for always making decisions without fully thinking them through. The Chorus criticizes Oedipus' quick decision-making by saying " Quick decisions are not the safest." (p. 41) Oedipus responds with "If I take my time and wait, then his [opponent] cause is won, and mine lost." (p. 41) The public is receptive to Oedipus' mistakes and they see many faults in his personality.
After fighting with Creon about the murder of Laius, Creon asks Oedipus if he wants to banish him from Thebes. Oedipus shows a new inferiority, his mercilessness when he responds by saying "Not at all. Death is what I want for you, not exile." (p. 42) At this point, the people of Thebes begin to view Oedipus in a tyrannical way because now he only wants what is in his best interest and not theirs. Ahab, like Oedipus, was stubborn, determined, and somewhat tyrannical. Ahab's crew joined his ship to travel the world and make money.
Ahab is not concerned about making money, but instead he cares about his own personal quest, catching Moby Dick. He convinces his crew to help him capture the White Whale, and every member concurs except for his first mate, Starbuck. Starbuck is skeptical about this mission because he understands the dangers involved and also begins to view Ahab as a tyrant for wanting what is in his best interest. Later in the story, Starbuck continues to attempt to talk Ahab out of the hunt for the White Whale. Ahab is too stubborn and determined to stray from his primary objective.
Ahab teaches his crew a motto of his, "A dead whale or a stove boat!" (Moby Dick, p. 173) By this, Ahab means that when they are chasing a whale, they won't stop until they either kill it, or their boats are destroyed. This extreme determination and perilous attitude eventually lead to his and most of his crewmember's deaths. At the end of the story, Ahab's ship, The Pequod, chases Moby Dick for three days. After losing several boats, Ahab decides that they still must attack the White Whale.
Ahab and the crew end up dead leaving only Ishmael and Moby Dick alive. Ahab's blind determination that initially inspired his crew eventually turned into the cause of their deaths. The crew died attempting to complete Ahab's quest, and by doing so they made him more of a tyrant. In these two stories, both Oedipus and Ahab are on their own personal quests and it is not until they get their own people involved that they end up failing. Oedipus is on a quest for the truth about his background, as well as for his innocence. Ahab's quest is to kill Moby Dick as an act of revenge for taking his leg.
Both characters begin by leading their people in a good manner, and end by thinking too much about their own needs and not enough about the needs of their people.