Oedipus the King by Sophocles is about Oedipus, a man doomed by his fate. Like most tragedies, ‘Oedipus the King’; contains a tragic hero, a heroic figure unable to escape his/her own doom. This tragic hero usually has a hamartia or a tragic flaw which causes his/hers’ downfall. The tragic flaw that Sophocles gives Oedipus is hubris (exaggerated pride or self-confidence), which is what caused Oedipus to walk right into the fate he sought to escape.
Pride like that of Oedipus had been the downfall of many great leaders. Oedipus is blinded by his arrogance and won’t accept the fact that he can’t avoid his fate. His pride first affects him when he is told about what his fate has in-store for him. Oedipus explains to Jocasta that he was told that he ‘was fated to to lie with my his mother and show to daylight an accursed breed which men would not endure, and I he was doomed to be murderer of the father that begot me him. When I heard this I fled’; (Sophocles 45, 1.792-4). Ironically the pride which caused him to attempt to avoid his fate, put him on a path to it. On his trip away from Corinth, he unknowingly met with his father, King Laius. When Oedipus tells Jocasta of his encounter he says that he met with a carriage at an intersection and they fought over the right of way. He also mentions one man (King Laius) struck him and said that:
‘He (King Laius) was paid in full and … my stick had struck him backwards from the car and he rolled out of it. And then I killed them all.’; (Pg 45, 1.801-13)
Oedipus’ pride caused him to kill his own father (unknowingly). He kept seeking for ways to avoid his destiny. This shows that he was so zealous that he thought he could avoid destiny. Also, in trying to avoid his destiny, he got into an argument over a small right of way incident. Had he just swallowed his pride and let the carriage have the right of way, he could have avoided everything.
Sophocles decision to make Oedipus’ hamartia hubris helped contribute to the play because it showed that Oedipus had the chance to avoid his fate. Also, it is his hubris, which made him think that he could escape fate that brought him to his fate. Oedipus’ problem was that his insolent nature prevented him from just letting things be. He was so self-confident that he tried to escape his fate. Had he not tried to escape his fate, he could have prevented what happened from occuring. The fact that his hamartia is hubris just shows us that it’s his own fault that things ended up as they did. This is why Sophocles gave Oedipus this tragic flaw. They showed that Oedipus could have avoided his fate, had he possessed different characteristics. Oedipus’ problem was that his nature was to be proud and confident and he couldn’t change that. He showed his arrogance in the beginning of the story when he spoke to Teiresias. He said:
‘When the dark singer, the sphinx, was in your country, did you speak word of deliverance to its citizens? And yet the riddle’s answer was no the province of a chance comer. It was a prophet’s task and plainly you had no such gift of prophecy from birds nor otherwise from any Fod to glean a word of Knowledge. But I came, Oedipus, who knew nothing, and I stopped her. I solved the riddle by my wit alone. Mine was no knowledge got from birds.’; (Pg. 27, 1.391-9)
Oedipus knew that even the most intelligent men of thebes had been killed attempting to answer the riddle. When he answered the riddle, he proved his intelligence was superior to theirs. When Oedipus solved the riddle it was fuel for his arrogance. He just became completely cavalier and even more self confident then before. It was because of this that he was brought to a tragic end.
Even as the pieces of the puzzle were coming together and Oedipus was beginning to learn of what had happened to him his inner colors were shining. When Jocasta, his wife, knew that he was about to find out something that would forever change him, she said to him: ‘I beg you—do not hunt this out—I beg you, if you have any care for your own life. What I am suffering is enough.’; (pg 57, 1.1060-2) Oedipus let his arrogance make his decision and wouldn’t let it go until he figured everything out. The begging of his wife, couldn’t even stop him. He called for the shepard and interrogated him till he discovered the horrifying truth that he is the killer of King Laius and Jocasta is his mother.
Sophocles used Oedipus’ pride to characterize Oedipus as a tragic man. It showed that he was destined to make himself miserable because of the hubris he was born with. He also uses it to show that there is fate, but we are a part of it and it is only what might happen based on the person we are. Oedipus came about his tragic discovery not because of an evil act or an evil trait but because of the person he was. When the oracles stated that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother, he stated what could happen. Oedipus’ fate might have been avoided if Oedipus was not the type of person he was.Oedipus was a tragic hero. Sophocles, instead of killing Oedipus in the end of the novel, chose to give Oedipus a fate worse then death. Oedipus found out who he was and that he killed his father and slept with his mother. His tragic end was a result of his hamartia, hubris. His pride was what caused him to attack the carriage and kill his father, which led to him marrying his mother. He could have ignored the mere right of way argument, but the person he was inside couldn’t. His self-confidence and pride, turned into arrogance, and caused him to curse himself. Ironically the traits Oedipus had which led to him becoming a rich and powerful king ultimately led to his tragic end. Perhaps if Oedipus had been a different person inside, he might have been able to escape his fate.