This week in class we read "Oedipus Rex," and, let me tell you, it was quite interesting. Very interesting. I actually enjoyed the play but, wow, a lot of stuff happened.
I think most people know some sort of general synopsis of Oedipus or, at the very least, have heard of an "Oedipus complex." If you know what an Oedipus complex is, you already know why I call this play interesting.
The whole thing starts out relatively normal except that the city of Thebes is being ravaged in a variety of ways. The people of Thebes call upon their old hero, Oedipus, to save the city by finding out why the Gods are angry with them and fixing it. Conversations lead Oedipus to discover that the Gods are angry with whoever killed Laius, the former king, and, if that person is rid of the city will be saved. So, Oedipus becomes very determined to find out who killed Laius, and, through many interrogations and arguments, eventually comes to the realization that, not only did he kill Laius, but Laius was also his father making his wife his mother and fulfilling the very prophecy he had worked so hard to prevent. This horrible truth is revealed in front of the entire city even though so many people tried to warn Oedipus against pressing so hard for the truth. After this news is out, Jocasta-- Oedipus' wife and mother who had no idea she was both-- runs inside and kills herself dramatically. Oedipus steals a pin from her body and gouges his eyes out and the rest is pretty much history.
Hooray for happy endings.
Oedipus is a prime, classic example of a tragedy-- for obvious reasons. It's incredible how quickly Oedipus goes from hero to horrible. The effects of the tragic realizations, though, impact way more than just Oedipus. Jocasta is so shocked and horrified that she kills herself. Oedipus's entire family and children must now bear the weight and shame of something that was in no way their fault, and the entire city of Thebes is shaken and left in chaos.
By any definition, the story of Oedipus is a tragedy. The story demonstrates a major turn of luck for its tragic hero, all contingent on his blatant fatal flaw: anger. In addition, "Oedipus Rex" is the story of a man just trying to keep his position as hero of Thebes and questioning crimes long past and forgotten.