Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oedipus – the victim of fate

Why do we cling to hope when we can do nothing about our destiny? Sophocles says, ‘it’s a terrible thing to be wise when there’s nothing you can do,’ Does that mean ignorance is bliss? The answer is of course not that simple.

Oedipus was doomed before his birth. And we can’t say it’s his fault. What can you do if gods have already decided what’s to be done with your life? You can’t thwart your destiny. Even if you try to alter it, you won’t succeed. However, one of the questions that has always bothered people after reading Oedipus Rex is: Is there justice in a world, where for no reason clear to ethical understanding, the worst happens to the best?

We often hear whatever happens, it happens for the best. It’s not so. Pick up any newspaper & you would know it. Yes, the tragedy of Oedipus is way too much for those who want to stay in a state of denial. Some are predestined to suffer & the strange thing is that they may not be such bad humans. We know that fiction has to make sense, but what happens in real life is far worse & unbelievable. Usually people hide their stories & maybe they don’t have any other option. People just don’t understand a tragedy till it happens to them.

Anyway, I was going through this play yesterday & these are some of the lines that I would like to share:

Teiresias: I did not want to speak, but you incited me.

Oedipus: What do you mean? Speak it again, so I can understand you more precisely.

Teiresias: Did you not grasp my words before, or are you trying to test me with your question?

Oedipus: Do you really think you can just speak out, say things like this, & still remain unpunished?

Teiresias: Yes, I can, if the truth has any strength.

Oedipus: Everything you speak is all so cryptic – like a riddle.

Teiresias: Well, in solving riddles, are you not the best there is?

Teiresias has been quite sarcastic, cause Oedipus was able to solve the Riddle of Sphinx. But the truth shatters him to pieces. Anyone in his place would have gone mad. In real life, the story can be different, but bad things happen & there is no turning back. Life doesn’t give you a second chance. You can do nothing about your fate.

What I find weird is that they say you watch or read a tragedy to have a good cry & it gives you an opportunity to get rid of your ideas about bad things happening to good people. I don’t think it’s that simple & I don’t understand why most people ignore what Sophocles said about gods.

‘Maybe the gods do exist…& are consciously & elaborately malicious. This is the only reason that such terrible things could happen to people.’

This kind of idea has even been uttered by Bertrand Russell, but you know how badly people judge him.

Whatever the reason is…what happened to Oedipus was, by all means, not his fault & yet this man went through hell.

I also like what the Antigone (the daughter of Oedipus) said:

‘And if I have to die before my time, well, I count that a gain. When someone has to live the way I do, surrounded by so many evil things, how can she fail to find a benefit in death? And so for me meeting this fate won’t bring any pain.’

And we still raise the question: how much can you take? Some people only suffer & that’s it. Good things never happen & they are so used to evil happenings, that they even stop complaining.

Anyway, you must read the trilogy, not just Oedipus Rex. Sophocles is really good. Although I find Euripides a little better than him, but Aeschylus is a total disappointment. I can ‘t stay away from him for obvious reason, but if you can…then do that.

I think Oedipus was a victim of fate. However, this character has been judged pretty badly by closed minds. I don’t think he committed sin. He wasn’t aware of anything till it was too late to turn back.

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