Major Themes Explored in Oedipus Rex

Major Themes Explored in Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex presents a mix of characters with unique characteristics. The heroism of the people in the book shows how they are willing to be intelligent, independent, and more growth of pride, which eventually leads to their fall. In the effort to explain more about these characters, Sophocles applies some significant themes. 

Fate versus Free Will

In ancient times, Greeks believed that some people could access the information about the future, as seen by their gods. King Oedipus and all the people believe in the prophecies, and these beliefs determine their fate. For instance, the prediction that there would be a plague, and it would disappear if Laius' killer were banished, was significant. This prediction made Creon to return from Delphi to bring the answers needed. Also, Oedipus narrates a story to Jocasta about a prophecy where he would marry his mother after killing his father. Laius also lives knowing that one day his one will kill him and marry his wife. There are many prophets in this book, such as Tiresias, oracles, and priests. The examples justify the presence of the gods' powers despite there being attacks in Athens over the prevalence of prophets and the prophetic powers gained from the gods.  


Oedipus works hard to discover his identity after a drunken man tells him that he does not belong to Merope and Polybus. The trouble he went through about knowing his identity made him to start on a self-discovery mission. When Apollo prophesies to him about killing his father and marrying his mother, he runs away from Corinth. Although he wanted to find his birth parents, he wished he could avoid the oracle.

Besides, Oedipus' wish to know how the people are fairing on make him to send Creon to the oracle. When Creon comes back, Oedipus thinks that he was plotting to overthrow him. However, he discovers that the answers he got from Creon were real when he talks to Jocasta. He learns of his true identity from the story of the shepherd.


Sophocles shows how the characters, especially Oedipus, have pride, which eventually leads to various tragedies. Oedipus' pride makes him attempt to run away from the prophecy, which leads to his tragic mistake. He defies the prophetic dictations of the gods, and its fulfillment leads to his downfall. Jocasta also displays a lot of pride when she tries to challenge the dictated fate by the gods. She wished Oedipus to die while still young. She continues to pray at the altar even after learning from Apollo of the fulfillment of the prophecy.  

Sight and Blindness

Sophocles uses this theme to show the extent of ignorance of the characters in Oedipus Rex. In this case, the people are blind at first; they see the truth and then decide to ignore it. They only see things in a more transparent way when they understand what exactly happened. Tiresias is blind, and she is the one that helps unravel Oedipus' truth. Jocasta blinds herself from the reality of what will happen to her. After the reality gets revealed, she commits suicide. Besides, a crowd wishes they had never seen Oedipus when the shepherd admits of not killing Jocasta's son. When Oedipus finds his mother, Jocasta, dead, he blinds himself completely by gouging his eyes using pins because of the guilt.  


Published on: 1 Jun 2020

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