Fate and free will in Oedipus The King

King Oedipus' Fate vs. Free Will

King Oedipus' existence will be significantly influenced by fate and free will. There are two methods to consider Oedipus' fate when examining his life. One approach is that he was a victim of fate and unable to exercise any free will or make any decisions. The alternative perspective is that he was a man who controlled his own fate because he made his own decisions. The events in this catastrophe, however, demonstrate that free will is merely a path that one can take to reach their goal.

Defying Destiny

Oedipus performs a number of free-willed actions right away in an effort to defy destiny. For instance, upon learning of the prophecy, he fled from Corinth in order to escape the fate of murdering his father or having to "mate" with his own mother. However, in running away, he is unaware that he is playing into the hands of fate and actually taking a step closer towards his own destruction. Destiny comes to pass when on his way to a new life, he unknowingly ends his father's life and part of the oracle is fulfilled. He proceeds to Thebes where he also marries his biological mother as prophesied in the first oracle. Although he left Corinth out his own volition, the events that occur during the journey and in Thebes were part of the prophecy.

The Oracle and Free Will

The beginning of the story, Sophocles narrates of Creon's new oracle which comes at the time Thebes was experiencing a plaque. Creon conveys the message that the plague would only end if the people who had murdered Laius were found. This is also another case of a freewill leading Oedipus to his destiny as instead of waiting for the plague to end, he decided to ask for help from Apollo. There are two actions he could have taken in this situation. The first was to wait for the plague to end. Alternatively, he could have sent Creaon to Apollo, asking for help. As fate would have it, he chose the latter, which leads him to his tragic destiny. Although his actions were well intentioned and he was fulfilling his duties as a king, they contribute to his downfall.

The Unveiling of Truth

Also, once he found out of Apollo's word, he could have calmly conducted an investigation into the death of King Laius. Instead, because he was determined to find out the truth, anger and passion took over, and he unknowingly pronounces a curse on himself "upon the murderer I invoke this curse-whether he is one man and all unknown, or one of many-may he wear out his life in misery or doom!" (Sophocles 7). This symbolizes that even with free will, the actions we take ultimately lead us to our fate. His unyielding desire to solve the mystery of Laiu's murder as well as his lineage instead uncover his horrific deeds. Many people beg him to halt his quest for the truth, but he is adamant. Eventually, the truth dawns on him and he is so devastated he blinds himself. Oedipus insistence on finding out the truth created a lot of tension and let Tiresias to foretell "now you see clearly, but then you will see darkness" (Sophocles 17). This prophecy came to pass when he gouged his eyes.

The Inevitability of Fate

Many actions that Oedipus willingly took, some unknowingly and others in a bid to escape the prediction of the oracle, all worked towards his destruction. Despite numerous efforts to the contrary, all prophecies come to pass, proof that fate is inevitable. It can, therefore, be argued that all actions, even those done out of free will are only a path to one's destiny.

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