In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus is a classic tragic hero. According to Aristotle’s definition, Oedipus is a tragic hero because he is aking whose life falls apart when he finds out his life story. There are anumber of characteristics described by Aristotle that identify a tragic hero. For example, a tragic hero must cause his own downfall; his fate is notdeserved, and his punishment exceeds the crime; he also must be of noblestature and have greatness.
Oedipus is in love with his idealized self, butneither the grandiose nor the depressive “Narcissus” can really love himself(Miller 67). All of the above characteristics make Oedipus a tragic heroaccording to Aristotle’s ideas about tragedy, and a narcissist according toAlice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self. Using Oedipus as an ideal model, Aristotle says that a tragic hero must be animportant or influential man who makes an error in judgment, and who mustthen suffer the consequences of his actions. Those actions are seen whenOedipus forces Teiresias to reveal his destiny and his father’s name. WhenTeiresias tries to warn him by saying “This day will give you parents anddestroy you” (Sophocles line 428), Oedipus still does not care and proceedswith his questioning.
The tragic hero must learn a lesson from his errors injudgment and become an example to the audience of what happens when great menfall from their lofty social or political positions. According to Miller, aperson who is great, who is admired everywhere, and needs this admiration tosurvive, has one of the extreme forms of narcissism, which is grandiosity. Grandiosity can be seen when a person admires himself, his qualities, such asbeauty, cleverness, and talents, and his success and achievements greatly. Ifone of these happens to fail, then the catastrophe of a severe depression isnear (Miller 34). Those actions happen when the Herdsman tells Oedipus whohis mother is, and Oedipus replies “Oh, oh, then everything has come outtrue. Light, I shall not look on you Again.
I have been born where I shouldnot be born, I have been married where I should not marry, I have killed whomI should not kill; now all is clear” (Sophocles lines 1144). Oedipus’sdecision to pursue his questioning is wrong; his grandiosity blinded him and,therefore, his fate is not deserved, but it is far beyond his control. Aprophecy is foretold to Laius, the father of Oedipus, that the destiny ofOedipus is a terrible one beyond his control. But when it is prophesized toOedipus, he sets forth from the city of his foster parents in order toprevent this terrible fate from occurring. Oedipus’s destiny is not deservedbecause he is being punished for his parent’s actions.
His birth parents seekthe advice of the Delphi Oracle, who recommends that they should not have anychildren. When the boy is born, Laius is overcome with terror when heremembers the oracle. Oedipus is abandoned by his birth parents and is deniedtheir love, which is what results in what Miller calls “Depression as Denialof the Self”. Depression results from a denial of one’s own emotionalreactions, and we cannot really love if we deny our truth, the truth aboutour parents and caregivers as, well as about ourselves (Miller 43). The birthof Oedipus presets his destiny to result in tragedy even though he is ofnoble birth.
In tragedies, protagonists are usually of the nobility to maketheir falls seem greater. Oedipus just happens to be born a prince, and hehas saved a kingdom that is rightfully his from the Sphinx. His destiny is tobe of noble stature from birth, which is denied to him by his parents, butgiven back by the Sphinx. His nobility deceived him as well as hisreflection, since it shows only his perfect, wonderful face and not his innerworld, his pain, his history (Miller 66).
When he relies on his status, he isblind, not physically, but emotionally. He is blind in his actions; thereforehe does not see that the questioning would bring him only misery. Later,after his self-inflicted blinding, Oedipus sees his actions as wrongdoingwhen he says “What use are my eyes to me, who could never – See anythingpleasant again?” (Sophocles line 1293) and that blindness does notnecessarily have to be physical as we can se when he says, “If I had sight, Iknow not with what eyes I would have looked” (Sophocles line 1325). In theplay Oedipus Rex, Sophocles portrays the main character, Oedipus, as agood-natured person who has bad judgment and is frail. Oedipus makes a fewfatal decisions and is condemned to profound suffering because of them.
Iagree with Aristotle that Oedipus’ misfortune happens because of his tragicflaw. If he hadn’t been so judgmental or narcissistic, as Miller wouldcharacterize a personality like Oedipus, he would never have killed KingLaius and called Teiresias a liar. In the beginning, Teiresias is simplytrying to ease him slowly into the truth; but Oedipus is too proud to see anytruths, and he refuses to believe that he could have been responsible forsuch a horrible crime. He learns a lesson about life and how there is more toit than just one person’s fate.Category: Book Reports