Oedipus the king of Thebes ends up being banished from his kingdom, and warned never to return. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex ends showing how Oedipus was banished, and the shocking events that led to him putting out his own eyes physically. This was very painful and symbolic as well. His punishment was too severe. The main reason why Oedipus looked for Laius’ killers was to end the plague that was deadly to the land. The only way to remove the plague was through finding the killer. He speaks to the people and even pronounces a curse on the murderer “I curse myself as well…if by any chance he proves to be an intimate of our house” (line 284-285). This is a curse that finally gets to him later. It was finally discovered that it was Oedipus who killed Laius. For this reason, the only option for a punishment was banishment, since killing him would make things worse.
Through his time in power, Oedipus had executed a lot of people. He ordered the death of the Sphinx all the years he was in power. His leadership was not fair and he had not made accomplishments of much importance. But on the other hand, killing a king would bring so much commotion and serious repercussions to the people in the kingdom. That means that the only option to remove the plague from the land was by banishing Oedipus from the kingdom. His punishment was fitting the crimes he had done, although he suffered so much humiliation in the process. Oedipus was very ignorant of his mistakes and to Jocasta, and during that time, there was no written punishment for most of the crimes committed. Tiresias speaks to him using a riddle, “This day will bring your birth and your destruction” (line 499). This riddle is directed to Oedipus referring to his reverse of circumstances.
After Oedipus puts out his own eyes, the senators question this move. In response, Oedipus says, “What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy.” (Line 1471-1472). By saying that, Oedipus meant that he felt there was no need or good to see the things and people around him anymore. This statement showed that he was willing to accept all the severe punishments administered to him.
This literary work reflects universal themes mainly on pride, ignorance and judgment. Oedipus was a proud and ignorant leader, yet he was banished from his kingdom. One of the lessons learnt from this literary work is that pride is not a virtue and does not end up well. The riddle used by Tiresias explains that circumstances can reverse so ignorance leads to downfall. Lesson learnt from the literary work are applicable in modern daily life.
In comparison to present day, the period of the literary work was very harsh and ignorant. The differences are that during that time, there were no laws and punishments written concerning ignorance and unfair judgment. In present day, every little crime including ignorance is written and punishable. Another difference is that during the period of the literary work, people believed in plagues and curses. In present day, there are no such things like plagues or curses. Crimes of murder are punished through sentencing the murderer to a period of time in prison.
There are similarities between the period of the literary work and present day. Both the time of the literary work and in present day laws and rules are put to govern people. During that time, the king would punish law breakers according to their mistakes. In present day, the same is done, and the lawbreakers are put in prison. The other similarity is that during both times, human life is valued and murder is the biggest crime anyone can commit. Both the period of the literary work and present day offer the most severe punishments for murder.
The author says that the unfortunate and scary misadventure of Oedipus is the intentional work on the gods. The author presents Oedipus in a way that tells that he was a very determined, willing and liked administrator. He also explains that Oedipus killed Laius in self-defence. The author’s writing is tight and each phrase is a contribution to the whole theme. He is very good at observing life itself. He has the ability to make his characters to appear like real individuals.