A hero is a person known for his admirable and heroic nature who, in the opinion of others, possesses certain unique accomplishments or personal characteristics that are admirable and considered appropriate in a given environment. The life and deeds of King Oedipus as exemplified in the book represent the life of a man of noble stature and excellence whose life is complicated by a tragic flaw that ultimately leads to his downfall. Oedipus lives in a world where prophecy is strongly valued and representatives abide and submit to various Devine propositions. The period, in this case, is a tragedy that begins with his parents throwing him out only three days after his birth since it was told that he would grow to kill his father the then king and marry his mother. King Oedipus’ actions throughout the play and particularly in the end can be taken as typical heroic acts whose failure is not wholly deserved but a tragedy that further leads to gain in knowledge.
Oedipus has many qualities of that support his heroic life including courage, confidence, strength, and a man of action. Throughout the play, people praise Oedipus for his unprecedented victory against the Sphinx that had threatened the stability and sustainability of the region of Thebes. “You outwitted the Sphinx, that deadly she-monster who was destroying us when we could not answer her riddles (9).” The statement illustrates Oedipus courage and desirability as a man of action who conquered the deadly creature that was a bigger menace to the country. His actions are further explicated in the people’s decision to reward him greatly as their king regardless of being a stranger to the city. The horrific experiences of the Sphinx can be witnessed in the people’s decision to postpone the search for King Laius murderer which itself was considered an unsolved crime for most people of Thebes. In addition to his victory against the monster, Oedipus actions of courage and action are explicit once the people decided to consult him in their efforts to solve the murder case which affirms their envy and acknowledgment of his unique skills as a community hero. In the text, the people urge Oedipus to help them in the same manner he did to get rid of the evil that torments their city and country owing to the unsolved murder of their previous king (10). Oedipus’ decision to take on the case due to the perceived benefits it would have on the people, and the country as a whole further depicts his heroic act and compassion towards the people. “Speak in front of everyone. I am concerned more for these people than for my own life.” The statement illustrates Oedipus’ desire to do what is right for the people and elucidates his selflessness congruent to the traits of the modern day hero.
In addition to his qualities, Oedipus is pre-eminently great but not perfect which makes it possible for people to associate with which is the case with most heroes who are adored by their communities. In the end, Oedipus owns up to his mistakes that he believes t have committed regardless of taking every precaution in his life to avoid such limitations. “Apollo did it, Apollo, friends: He caused all this evil, this misery, and made me suffer. But it was me. My hand alone struck out my eyes. Why should I see? I am a man for whom sight holds nothing sweet” (Oedipus 64). In this statement, King Oedipus acknowledges his evil doing that was rooted in his fate as prophesied where he was to murder his father and marry his mother. His acknowledgment of his immediate failure after gouging his eyes represents a character who is willing to atone for his mistakes. Regardless, he pursued the truth in a situation where most people would desire to have it concealed after suspecting that he might have been unwillingly involved in the murder of King Laius. After Jocasta had begged Oedipus to quit his search for the information that she suspected would reveal the prophecy, Oedipus remained adamant stating “You will never talk me out of discovering the truth.” His desire for the truth is humbling and highly favorable for a hero who had the capacity to end the search being in a position of power and cherished by members of the community who were reluctant to judge him after the prophet accused him of his father’s murder.
Oedipus went to demanding lengths to avoid causing harm to his family and others and protecting his “family’s” legacy and that of Jocasta, his wife. In his search for the truth, Oedipus was worried that his wife was afraid that he was not from a noble family and that would have repercussions on their family, regardless, Oedipus assured her that she should not worry about his status since she was noble regardless of his social status outcome. Oedipus’ action to move away from his country to a foreign location was a reflection of his gallant behavior as a real hero of the land since it originated from his desire to do what was right to protect the family from experiencing the grieve and torment that was previously prophesied. Additionally, Oedipus avoided acting on greed and placed the interests of his mother before his after rejecting the call to move back to Corinth after his adoptive father passed away to take over the kingdom. His actions including protecting the interests of his daughters was an act of courage as he pursued a better life for his family than what he had experienced in his envied life that led to his eventual failure as a king, mentor, husband, and friend. In his final act, Oedipus succumbed to the desires of Creon who he had sworn not to listen to and considered a foe all done to secure a better future for his daughters (70-71). The actions are in line with the ways of a hero who sacrifices his joy and ambitions for the people and is willing to sacrifice everything in this case power, family, and sight.
Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus, translated by Marianne McDonald. olli.ucsd.edu/documents/tyrannus.pdf.