A Paradox: Oedipus's Free will in the Play Oedipus Rex
William Shakespeare once wrote, "Who can control his fate?" (Othello, Act v, Sc.2). A hero and leader must acknowledge above all else his honor, and the pride of his image. In ancient Greek beliefs, a hero was a man who stood taller than the rest; he was able to better any conflict. He did this not for himself or for any token award that may be given to him, but for the security of his fellow man. Physical strength and superior wit are the two major characteristics of a hero. These characteristics may be destined; but the use of them to help his fellow man is will. Sophocles's short play Oedipus Rex is a tale of a hero's ascent to King and tragic fall. The young Prince Oedipus leaves his home in Corinth and arrives at Thebes, only to find that the town is cursed by the Sphinx. After solving the riddle given by the Sphinx, the blight is lifted, and the town declares Oedipus as their new leader and King. After a long rein Oedipus's ruling comes to a heartrending fall. Through his journey, we as readers are able to see the perils and obstacles facing the hero. Yet we are never sure if the voyage was predetermined by the gods, or whether Oedipus alone is responsible for his actions? Greek beliefs show Oedipus's realization of the truth and horrific blinding can be thought as a direct consequence of his actions taken from free will.
Oedipus is a hero. Oedipus makes an unaided choice to follow his destiny, (A destiny that he imagined for himself) to become a man that has no fear and will pursue justice at any cost. The choices made by Oedipus makes him a touching character and not merely a puppet of the gods. This can be more clearly seen in the quote of Oedipus proclaiming his will to protect the town:
Then once more I must bring what is dark to light. It is most fitting that Apollo shows, as you do, this compunction for the dead. You shall see how I stand by you, as I should, to avenge the city and the city's god, and not as though it were for some distant friend, but for my own sake, to be rid of evil... (9)
The above quote shows that Oedipus is a good man, with good intentions. He chooses to stay and to protect the town of Thebes for no reason other than the protection of man. Not only is Oedipus willing to protect but also to avenge the gods that have wronged the town. Staging Oedipus's discontent for the gods and the desire to right their wrongs. In a sense Oedipus was ready to take on the gods. This is a choice that Oedipus has to make by himself alone, for that proclamation almost ensures death of any mortal. This is the mentality of a hero in his mind he knows he controls the path of his life; there is no knife to him, forcing this upon him.
Another factor showing Oedipus's free will is his horrible realization at the end of the play. Oedipus's search for the answers to the murder of King Laius brings him to a horrific truth. He finds truth...