Oedipus Thesis Essay

The events in Oedipus the King, written by Sophocles, show an underlying relationship of man’s free will existing within the cosmic order or fate which the Greeks believed guided the universe in a harmonious purpose. Man was free to choose and was ultimately held responsible for his own actions. Both the concept of fate and free will played an itregal part in Oedipus’ destruction. Although he was a victim of fate, he was not controlled by it. Oedipus was destined from birth to someday marry his mother and to murder his father. This prophecy, as warned by the oracle of Apollo at Delphi was unconditional and inevitably would come to pass, no matter what he may have done to avoid it. His past actions were determined by fate, but what he did in Thebes, he did so of his own will.

From the beginning of this tragedy, Oedipus took many actions leading to his own downfall. Oedipus could have waited for the plague to end, but out of compassion for his suffering people, he had Creon go to Delphi. When he learned of Apollo’s word, he could have calmly investigated the murder of the former King Laius, but in his hastiness, he passionately curses the murderer, and in so, unknowingly curses himself. “Upon the murderer I invoke this curse- whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many- may he wear out his life in misery or doom! If with my knowledge he lives at my hearth, I pray that I myself may feel my curse.” (pg. 438; lines 266-271)

In order for Sophecles’ Greek audience to relate to the tragic figure, he had to have some type of flaws or an error of ways. This brought the character down to a human level, invoking in them the fear that “it could happen to them.” And Oedipus certainly is not one without flaws. His pride, ingnorance, insolence and disbelief in the gods, and unrelenting quest for the truth ultimately contributed to his destuction. When Oedipus was told (after threatening Teiresias), that he was responsible for the murder of Laius, he became enraged and calls the old oracle a liar. He ran away from his home, Corinth, in hopes of outsmarting the gods divine will. Like his father, Oedipus also sought ways to escape the horrible destiny told by the oracle of Apollo. The chorus warns us of man’s need to have reverence for the gods, and the dangers of too much pride. “If a man walks with haughtiness of hand or word and gives no heed to Justice and the shrines of Gods despises- may an evil doom smite him for his ill-starred pride of heart!- if he reaps gains without justice and will not hold from impiety and his fingers itch for untouchable things. When such things are done, what man shall contrive to shield his soul from the shafts of the God?” (pg. 452; 975-984)

Oedipus’ unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius’ murder and the mystery surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds. Teiresias, Jocasta and the herdsman tried to stop him from pursuing the truth. Take for example a part of the last conversation between Jocasta and Oedipus. After realizing that the prophecy had came true, Jacasta begs him to just let the mystery go unsolved for once. “I beg you- do not hunt this out- I beg you, if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough.” (pg. 461; 1158-1161) Oedipus replies, “I will not be persuaded to let chance of finding out the whole thing clearly.” (pg. 461; 1166-1167) He is unable to stop his quest for the truth, even under his wife’s pleading. For it is in his own vain that he must solve the final riddle, the riddle of his own life.

Upon discovery of the truth of his birth from the herdsman, Oedipus cries, “I who first saw the light bred of a match accursed, and accursed in my living with them, cursed in my killing.” (pg. 465; 1300-1303) Oedipus knew that his fate had indeed come to pass and feels cursed by it. The chorus then sings an ode on the sorrow of life and the tragic fate to which even the most honored, like Oedipus are ultimately subject. “What man, what man on earth wins more happiness than a seeming and after that turning away? Oedipus you are my pattern of this, Oedipus you and your fate! Luckless Oedipus, whom of all men I envied not at all. (pg. 465; 1305-1311)

At the end of this tragic story, when Oedipus gouges out his eyes, the chorus asks him what god urged him to blind himself. Oedipus replied, “It was Apollo, friends, Apollo, that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion. But was the hand that struck me was none but my own.” (pg. 467; 1450-1453) He claimed full responsibility for his actions. Oedipus was guilty of killing his father and marrying his mother, but perhaps the true sin lay in his overzealous attempt to raise himself to the level of the gods by trying to escape his fate. The chorus chants about how in prosperity, he was envied by all men, he was honored highest above all honors, and how he won happiness by pride (by slaughtering the Sphinx, and by trying to deceive the god’s will.) But, how ultimately, Odipus was judged for it, causing a reversal of fortune in his prosperous life.

The fact that Oedpius’ motives for killing his father, Laius, and wedding his mother, Jocasta, it does not take away from the horrific nature of the crimes. When he tears at his eyes with his Jocasta’s broach, Oedipus is accepting the full burden of his acts and knew that he must be punished for his sins. Therefore the last act of destruction was caused by Oedipus’ free will, but his tragic fate came about because of the nature of the cosmic order ( that every sin must be punished) and role of the gods in human affairs.

The chorus concludes this tragedy by warning the Greeks, that the only way to happiness is through humility and respect towards the gods, (qualities which Oedipus lacked, and ultimately led to his destruction.) They also warn not to take anything for granted, or suffer a fate like that of Oedipus. ” You live in my ancestral Thebes, behold this Oedipus,- him who knew the famous riddle and was a man most masterful,- not a citizen who did not look with envy on his lot-see him now and see the breakers of misfortune swall him! Look upon that last day always. Count no mortal happy till he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.” (pg. 470; 1643-1670)

Filed Under: Literature, Sophocles

Im trying to think of a thesis satementent for the oedipus the king topic free will vs. fate.
the thesis statement should include:
1) 3 points (ABC) examples
2) good vocab usage
3) be 1 sentence



Mar 23, 2012   #2

Why don't you try to come up with something, and I'll tell you if it's a thesis. I don't want to write your thesis.

Both the concept of fate and free will played an intregal part in Oedipus' destruction.
I need 3 points to support it though


Mar 23, 2012   #4

It's been years since I read Oedipus but I'll try to show you an example.

Decisions based on fear, haste, and superstition contribute to fate overcoming free will in Oedipus Rex.

Not the best example of a thesis, but it's a start. See how I use three general points to say that something else occurs.

X + Y + Z ------> A > B


Mar 23, 2012   #5

It's a good essay. Here's the thesis:

"His pride, ignorance, insolence and disbelief in the gods, and unrelenting quest for the truth ultimately contribute to his destuction."

I would narrow it down to the pride, the disbelief and the quest. Everyone is ignorant of something at sometime. He's a king how can he be insolent?

How are these related?
Disbelief in the gods-----> disbelief in fate?
Quest for truth-----> Free will?

You have to become a philosopher in order to write about these old plays. :)
I live in modern times and don't believe in fate or superstitions, so it's hard to convey these archaic systems in modern terms.

how should i fix my essay?


Mar 25, 2012   #7

Start with the thesis as I described above.

Disbelief in the gods-----> disbelief in fate?
Quest for truth-----> Free will?

Do you see the connections that were on the tip of your tongue?

"Oedipus' unyielding desire to uncover the truth about Laius' murder and the mystery surrounding his own birth, led him to the tragic realization of his horrific deeds." Good sentence

Find two or three quotes that support 1) pride 2) disbelief in the gods 3) quest for truth. The quotes you found are good ones, but they don't necessarily support your thesis.

Also try to use the PRESENT TENSE. Almost all teachers want you to use the present tense in an analysis essay.

I would love to read another draft.

ok thank you, but I am still struggling on finding 3 points and quotes to use in my essay. Could you please edit the essay I wrote?

Thanks :)


Mar 29, 2012   #9

I took some notes alongside the editing marks. I would highly recommend to rewrite a significant portion of the essay.

ok, how would you rewrite the things you edited in my paper?


Mar 29, 2012   #11

Find two or three quotes that support 1) pride 2) disbelief in the gods 3) quest for truth. The quotes you found are good ones, but they don't necessarily support your thesis.

Also try to use the PRESENT TENSE. Almost all teachers want you to use the present tense in an analysis essay.

Does the pride counterbalance the disbelief in the gods?
Does pride support the quest for truth or is there some other reason?

I'm not writing the essay for you. (I already wrote one my senior year of high school and did receive an A on it.) What works best in Oedipus is finding simple relationships and describing them. I think that you had a good start, but if you are unwilling to do anything else--your fate will be not much better than I predicted.

Most teachers these days don't even write comments. I remember getting a few words at the ends of my essays. You are fortunate that you found someone willing to work with you. For free! I'm an unemployed A student! And, you still aren't using this opportunity?

and fyi- im not asking you to write the essay for me...
and i appreciate you helping me,,your just not clear for me to understand...Just please use nicer words, what you said was alittle mean and insulting...

thanks for the help


Mar 29, 2012   #13

"ok, how would you rewrite the things you edited in my paper?"

Yes, you were asking me to rewrite the paper. It's the one rule of the edit.
If I choose to help you construct sentences, then it's a gift. It's something
you can't expect or ask me to do. Would you say, "Dad,
give me $50 I want to buy something?" No. But, if your Mom or Dad said, "Here's
$50 for your birthday," then you take it and thank them. It's the same rule.

How am I being unclear? Maybe if you ask some additional questions, I'll figure out where you're stuck.

Yes, but I phrased what I ment to say wrong.
And clearly, you are bragging about being an "A" student after graduating, i am also an "A" student.
i didnt know you were this mean and rude...


Mar 31, 2012   #15

Dear Saran,

You are taking what I'm saying the wrong way.
I was hoping that you would take my advice after
learning that I received mostly A's my senior year
and in college. I was not the A+ writer (although I
admit I did receive a couple A+'s on college papers).
I'm not your teacher. I'm not bragging.
You don't know me from any other stranger. Right?
I don't know you. I just thought you should take me up
on my offer to help you with your paper. It's friendly
advice on my part.

"i didnt know you were this mean and rude..."
This sort of comment you make to someone you know?

I can't believe anyone on this website would have hard feelings.
It's free advice!! I'm not judging you as a person. I don't know you,
nor will I ever know you. I pointed out the weaknesses in your introduction.
I would have continued with the remainder of the essay, but you are
stalling at every point.

I received a C on an essay my junior year in high school. It was a bump up from the
D my classmates gave me! Ouch. That really hurt. (It was a girl from my old church too.)
I'm glad that I received the low grade, because it taught me something important that I didn't know before. (NOT humility.) It was that my parents were wrong sometimes. I asked them for a little help with the paper, and it was the wrong advice!! Before this time, every single question I ever asked them they answered correctly. Every single question, so I obeyed them unconditionally. At that time, I realized that everyone made mistakes including my parents. After that, I didn't feel as badly receiving a bad grade.

What sort of comments does your teacher use?

If you were paying for advice, what would you expect me to say?

Analysis on Oedipus the King quotations

Hi, My english told me to dig deeper (have depth in my analysis) of the following quotes. I don't know how to have depth in my analysis. The analysis should be 4-5 sentences, and have a deep and meaningfull meaning

Here are the quotes:
1.Oedipus says, "What can I ever see? What love, what call of the heart/ can touch my ears with joy? Nothing, friends."
2.Oedipus says, "Listen to you? No More. I must know it all, / I must see the truth at last"
3.Oedipus says, "Now my curse on the murderer, Whoever he is, / alone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step"

4.Jocasta said, "Stop- in the name of god, / if you love your life, call off this search! / My suffering is enough."
Thank You!!

Oedipus the king uses symbolism to show fate unfolds truth;Advice on thesis statement

I needed help with with my thesis statement for oedipus the king in making sure that my literary element and theme go together.

Thesis: In Oedipus the king, Sophocles uses symbolism to show that fate unfolds truth.

Im confused on how to find words to put a good thesis together.
help please. Thanks!

In Oedipus the King , Sophocles uses symbolism to show that fate unfolds truth.

It looks good so far, but maybe add something about why Sophocles chose to use symbolism or what message he wants to give his audience about fate or truth.


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