A Tragic Hero’s Fate in Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus
Some scholars blamed Oedipus for his fate because of his hubris or inability to contain his rage, while others insist that he is innocent, for fate has unjustly set him up to fail in his life. Within this dialogue, one theme can be gained, the theme of Oedipus’ tragedy as a hero. Aristotle offers the meaning of an ideal tragic hero in Poetics, a hero who is both good and bad but mostly good, but his tragic flaw leads to his demise. Using dramatic irony, Sophocles shows in Oedipus Tyrannus that even a man with pride, his tragic flaw, can be considered as a hero. Oedipus is a tragic hero because he was a good leader who wanted to save his people from suffering; he is a good son, who wanted to prevent bad omens from his family; he did what is right by punishing himself according to his promise and misdeeds; he has a tragic flaw of pride; and he is innocent of his crimes because fate controlled his life, yet he lost everything because of his tragic flaw.
Oedipus is a hero because he has been a good leader since he has set foot on Thebes. He is a good leader because he is a savior to Thebes. The Elder remembers how Oedipus saved them before: “You came to Thebes, saved us from the Sphinx,/and without any help, delivered us from despair…/…you saved all our lives” (Sophocles 35-39). Oedipus is a hero who saves people from their collective plight. Even the Bible describes how heroes are like Jesus Christ, who comes to save people from their helplessness: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17). Oedipus saved the world of the Thebans, and for that, he is a hero. His heroism does not stop there because when Thebes needs another hero, he is again there to support them. When he learns from Creon that the curse on Thebes will only be lifted after the killer of Laius is put to justice, he immediately offers his help as he “join[s] the fight for this land” as “god’s true instrument for vengeance” and promises that he will do everything to avenge the former king’s murder (Sophocles 135-146). Oedipus is a hero because his people’s fight is his own fight too. He identifies with the people he serves because of his love for them. The Bible reveals the love of heroes that includes fighting for the people they serve: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:4). Oedipus is truly the minister of good and the executer of revenge in behalf of his people, which makes him a hero. By these actions and attitudes of a savior, Oedipus shows that he is a hero.
Aside from being hero through saving the people in deeds and intentions, Oedipus is also a hero to his family. He leaves the family who adopted him to avoid hurting them (780). He does not think of his own needs and puts the interest of his family first. Oedipus does the same for his family. He wants to learn the truth, although dramatic irony reveals that he has still harmed them by leaving his family and killing his real father who was unknown to him. He only wants to know the truth, which is why even when Jocasta even tries to stop him from trying to find the killer, he continues the search. He loves his family enough to know what is true, despite the possibility that the truth will hurt him and his family. The Bible talks about the greatness of truth in a person’s life: “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psalms 25:5).
Scheepers argues that Oedipus is a tragic hero that fits Aristotle’s conception because he is not culpable for his sins, therefore, he do not deserve his miserable destiny.
Bible. King James Bible online.org. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Scheepers, I. “Fate and Divine Working in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.” Akroterion 50 (2003): 137-144. Literary Reference Center. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. Theban Plays. Trans. & Intro. Peter Meineck and Paul Woodruff. Indiana: Hackett, 2003. Print.