Reflective Statement on the Role of Gods in Oedipus the King

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Reflective statement for Oedipus the king

Before the class interactive oral, I did not know the importance of Greek gods in the ancient Greek society. Actually it is in the course of the discussions that I was able to understand that, the entire life of each and everyone in the ancient Greek society was controlled by the gods. The gods are the ones controlling the fate of every individual and they are the ones deciding on how people’s lives should look like. The gods determined the fate of both Laius and Oedipus by telling Laius that he will be killed by his own son who will also marry his wife, (Jocasta) while telling Oedipus that he will kill his own father and marry his mother.

In the course of our discussions, a course mate talked about freewill, and according to him, the gods made sure that their words come to fulfillment by giving Laius and Oedipus the free will to run away from their fates but as they tried as much as they could to run away, they were rather fulfilling the prophecy. Laius tries to run away from his fate by pinning the ankle of his son and sending a shepherd to abandon him by the hillside so that he should die there, while Oedipus tries to run away from his home town with the fear of fulfilling the prophecy. But this came to pass when Oedipus killed Laius without knowing he is his father. This gave me further insight into the fact that, the destiny of each and every one was in the hands of the gods. Before the interactive oral, I didn’t understand how the god’s spoke to the people but one of my classmates raised a point that, the eyes and mouth of the gods in the ancient Greek society by then, were the oracles, who were those revealing the words of the gods to the people. For example, it was through an oracle that the people of Thebes could hear from the gods, what would release them from the plague, “Laius was killed. And now the god is clear: those murderers, he tells us, must be punished, whoever they may be (Sophocles, Oedipus the king, p. 4).” From this we are able to see the implications of oracles, when it concerns the god’s words or declarations.

The role of the gods in the Ancient Greek Society as seen in the play Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Man always regards gods as all knowing supreme beings, having in mind that gods are present to brighten and better his live. That is, man has always seen gods as divine creatures to whom he can pray whenever something wrong is happening, for they are the only ones having the solutions whenever he cannot handle his problems any longer. To man, gods are synonymous to justice, love, equity, peace and all what is seen as positive. But Sophocles in his play Oedipus the King, tries to defame gods divinity and faultlessness by showing us readers that, although gods could be perfect, they can also be harmful and destructive. Sophocles shows us that gods do have the human nature of causing harm. Readers can clearly see god’s destructiveness as they decide to destroy Oedipus’ life and that of his family because of his father’s sins. And by having control over Oedipus’ destiny, they succeed in their mission.

Indeed as said above, all the powers of fate and destiny were in the hands of the gods in the ancient Greek society. They were the ones controlling Oedipus’ life and destiny and for that reason, they are the ones responsible for his shameful deeds of killing his father and getting married to his own mother and even having offspring with her. By having destinies in their hands, they destroy Oedipus’ life instead of brightening it as people would always think and hope from them. This helps us to see the cruel and harmful nature of the gods, as they maliciously plan Oedipus’ destruction step by step by tracing his fate. The gods had in mind, what Oedipus’ life will be, and to make sure the prophecy comes true, they gave him the free will to do what so ever he wanted that could help him escape his destiny, they also granted the power of prophecy to oracles and finally established a plague in the Theban land, in order to make sure Oedipus’ destruction comes to fulfillment completely.

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The first step of the gods in the destruction of Oedipus was granting the power of prophecy to oracles. The gods granted the power of prophecy to oracles so that they can reveal to Laius and Oedipus what their future will be, while allowing them with the free will of moving away from it. So when the oracle of Apollo announces to Laius that he will be killed by his son who will marry his wife, “It said Laius was fated to be killed by a child conceived by him and me.” (sophocle, p. 19). While allowing him the free will to move away from his fate, by telling him this horrible prophecy, it pushes him to pin his son’s ankle and send him to be abandoned on the hill side, “Besides, before our child was three days old, Laius fused his ankles tight together and ordered other men to throw him out on a mountain rock where no one ever goes”. (sophocles, p. 19). Laius is actually thinking that by so doing, he will move away from the god’s prophecy. Oedipus on the other hand gets the information that the king and queen of Corinth are not his true parents from a drunk man “At a dinner there a man who was quite drunk from too much wine began to shout at me, claiming I was not my father’s real son.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the king, p. 21) And when Oedipus moves to Phoebus (Oracle of Pytho’s god), instead of giving him the confirmation that the king and queen of Corinth are not his parents, the oracle tells him he will kill his father and marry his mother pushing Oedipus to move out of Corinth. At this point, he actually thinks he is moving away from his fate meanwhile he is rather moving towards its fulfillment.

These two instances above show us how malicious Greek gods are: they planned Oedipus’s destruction in such a way that, anything he tries to do to avoid it will instead make him move toward its fulfilment. Firstly, telling the prophecy to Laius makes him send the child to be killed by the hillside, but out of pity, it is handed to a shepherd from Corinth, who hands it to the king and queen, (Merope and Pollibus) who are unable to have a child, “If you must know, he received you many years ago as a gift. I gave you to him.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the king, p. 27). Oedipus then grows without knowing the identity of his true parents. Secondly, telling the prophecy to Oedipus makes him to move away from Corinth with the fear of killing the people he considers as his parents, but just because of the fact that he does not know that Merope and Pollibus are not his true parents, makes him to move toward the fulfillment of the prophecy by killing his father Laius at the place where three roads meet, “one day Laius was killed by foreigners, by robbers, at a place where three roads meet.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the king, p. 19). After which Oedipus married his mother. Had it been that both of them were not told about their destinies, they won’t have tried to escape from it. Laius won’t have sent for his child to be killed and Oedipus would have grown knowing his true parents are Laius and Jocasta, and he won’t have committed the act of killing his father and marrying his mother. Therefore, telling them the prophecy to both Laius and Oedipus is a way of pushing them to fulfill the prophecy ignorantly. At this point, the gods should carry a responsibility for Oedipus’ sins, for they push him to commit such evil and he does it in ignorance and blindness.

As if the two sins were not enough, the gods move further on their destruction of Oedipus’s life and its family and they decided to strike the land of Thebes with a plague to make sure Oedipus’ destruction is complete. And ensure the plague will come to an end once the murderer of Laius is revealed to everyone, “Laius was killed. And now the god is clear: those murderers, he tells us, must be punished, whoever they may be.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the king, p. 4). So Oedipus vows to find the murderer and send him out of Thebes. And in the course of this work, Oedipus comes to the final truth that he was the true murderer of his father fulfilling the prophecy of killing his father and he also comes to realize that he is marry to his mother. By sending the dangerous plague on Thebes, the gods wanted to ensure Oedipus’ destruction is complete as he would be banned immediately they discover he is the murderer. In addition, by sending the plague the gods want to make sure Oedipus carries out a finding on who is the murderer of Laius? Himself, so that by promising to band the murderer from Thebe, he will band himself. Finally, the very last purpose of sending the plague was to relief Oedipus of his blindness and let him know the truth about his true nature.

So, the main role of the gods in Oedipus the king is to ruin Oedipus’ life completely. By granting the power of prophecy and striking Thebe with a plague, the gods make sure Oedipus’ life is completely ruined without him knowing. Since the gods had the fate of Oedipus in their hands, as reader we hold them responsible for Oedipus’ terrible sins, for he did them in blindness. So from this play, Sophocles wants to show his readers a clear picture of the Greek gods; they can also cause harm in one’s life, which is the case with Oedipus. But the fact that the gods punish Oedipus does not mean that they are completely evil, for they punish him for the sin committed by his fathers, (Laius raped Chrysippus, the son of the king of Pisa, Pelops). Laius is curse for this sin and the generation that will follow. We can therefore see that because of this sin Oedipus’ life is already destroyed before he is even born and this continues to his two daughters, (Antigone and Ismene) who are now sisters to their own father. However, Oedipus’ destruction also comes as a result of his own pride and the fact that he takes wrong decisions; he was asked by Jocasta and the chorus to stop his findings but out of pride he continues and arrives at the point of his downfall.

So from the analyses above, it can be deduced that, the main role of the gods is to ruin Oedipus’s life and Oedipus’s pride facilitates this destruction. Though this destruction looks evil, it is also made out of justice to punish for the sin of Laius. From here we are able to see and learn more about the power of justice of the Greek gods, this justice could be harmful to an extend that it moves from generation to generation, and should try to move against god’s laws because any injustice might be punished severely. However, the greatest lesson we learn from this is that, no one can run away from his destiny, the more you try to avoid it, the more you are moving towards its fulfillment.

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