The Ultimate Undoing of Oedipus: The Two Sides of the Coin Named Pride
“Pride, a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired” (“Pride,” def. 1). One’s pride is often seen as self confidence or ignorance. It is often viewed very different from person to person. For many, it is seen as a fault in someone’s character. For others, it is seen as having a very confident attitude which some may find to be an attractive quality in someone’s character. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, pride can be seen as a positive and look like a gleam of hope, but ultimately will lead to a clouded judgement and negative impact on Oedipus.
“Here I am myself— you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus” (159). Immediately King Oedipus is showing how prideful he really is. He believes that the whole world knows his fame because he killed a Sphinx. Later he ask the people to have faith in him, because why would they need the gods if they had him. This shows that he saw himself as an equal to the gods, which was very disrespectful. In fact, the city of Thebes was praying because a plague had fallen on their land and disease was wiping out their women, children, cattle, and crops. Oedipus assured everyone that he could save the city by himself and there was no need to pray to anyone but him. This really shows how blinded he was by his own glory, but ultimately his search to find the cure for the plague brought out how truly prideful he was and began the downfall of his ruling.
Oedipus decides that he will expose Lauis’ murderer which will rid the land of the cursed plague. He calls on a blind prophet, Tiresias. The two men have a very tense squabble on who killed the former king and who will be exiled from the land. The prophet hesitates and asks to just forget the whole thing, but Oedipus being prideful, presses on. The brief yet intense discussion, leads to Tiresias stating that it is Oedipus’ fault that there is a plague. He was the one who killed Lauis. He denies having any memory of it and curses at the old man for saying such things. He then turns to Creon, Jocasta’s brother, and blames him for putting the prophet up to the whole thing. “No, but I came by, Oedipus the ignorant, you and your birds, your gods—nothing. I stopped the Sphinx! With no help from the birds, the flight of my own intelligence hit the mark” (182). Once again, Oedipus has said that he has done what the gods did not. He does not even claim them as his own gods, He says they did nothing to save Thebes, he did it all, with his own intelligence. Which is him also claiming that he outsmart the gods. Anyone with any less of a royal status than his, would have surely suffered for making such claims. He also says this in an attempt to prove that he could not have killed Lauis, he’s a nobel man with dignity. He saved Thebes, why would he ever have anything to do with the murder of king.
“O light—now let me look my last on you! I stand revealed at last— cursed in my birth, cursed in marriage, cursed in the lives I cut down with these hands!” (232) Ultimately, Oedipus’ pride is what kept him from living out his life as the ruler of Thebes. He had to be the savior of the city and even though he was warned on many occasions to leave things alone, for his own good. His pride was so strong and he was so blinded by his own glory that he needed to get to the bottom of the mystery, when all along, it was him. That is why this example shows his downfall, when he realised that the truth was there for everyone to see. One of Oedipus’ greatest characteristics was his pride, but also one of his biggest faults, and that is why he could not hide behind it any longer.
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