Opening the Eyes of the Audience Literature is often written with some didactic intent or purpose. The Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex is an excellent example of how an author can use literary techniques and personality traits to teach a certain moral or theme. In Oedipus Rex, Sophocles communicates his themes and morals to the reader through the character flaws of Oedipus, a tragic hero. The most prominent character flaw that Oedipus possesses is his excessive arrogance. One way this flaw is displayed is Oedipus' repeated use of the pronoun "I". In lines sixty seven through eighty alone, Oedipus uses the word "I" eight times, projecting his haughty personality. "I have found one helpful course, and that I have taken: I have sent CreonÃ¢ÂÂ¦to DelphiÃ¢ÂÂ¦" states Oedipus as he describes what action he has taken to help the people of Thebes recover from there ill state (70-73). This quote is just one of the many that exhibit Oedipus' pride through the over use of the pro-noun "I".
Another example of Oedipus' hubris is the way he speaks in a condescending tone to who ever he may be speaking to. "I have sent CreonÃ¢ÂÂ¦to Delphi, Apollo's place of revelation to learn there, if he can, what act or pledge of mine may save the city" (74-77). In these lines Oedipus suggest that Creon is inferior to him by stating, "if he can"(77). Oedipus often indicates, as he does here, that people other than himself are insolent and incapable of completing tasks correctly. He also indicates in the above quote that he, the all mighty Oedipus, is the only person who could possible save the city of Thebes by saying, "what act or pledge of mine may save the city" (75). Hefner 2 This extreme arrogance, demonstrated through patronizing speech, is apparent throughout the entire play. Another example of his excessive pride is when Oedipus asks Teiresias "Has your mystic mummery ever approached the truth?" (376). In this quote Oedipus mocks Teiresias because he is unwilling to except Teiresias' view of the future. Oedipus is so egotistical and proud that he dares to suggest that he is superior to a high priest of Apollo. Another major character flaw that Oedipus holds is his inability to view a problem on more than one plane of thought. Every time Oedipus is confronted with a situation he makes a rash decision and assumes, because of his hubris, that he has made the best choice. These decisions, however, contribute to the ultimate fall of Oedipus. "I found one helpful course, and that I have taken" states Oedipus, displaying his characteristic of looking at a problem and considering only one solution (70-71). Oedipus seems solve problems with rash and close minded solutions. This can be seen when Oedipus, no matter what the consequences, insists on knowing his true origin even after Jocasta pleads him to stop questioning the messenger: "For god's love, let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you?" (1005-1006). "However base my birth, I must know about it." replies Oedipus (1024). Since Oedipus did not stop to consider what might be revealed in his past, he obtained all knowledge and fell from his high pedestal. When Oedipus was living in Corinth with his supposed parents a soothsayer told him that his destiny was to murder his father and marry his mother. Stricken with fear, Oedipus considered only one solution to his dilemma, exile from Corinth. Oedipus Hefner 3 describes his reaction to the prophecy by saying "I heard all this, and fled. And from that day Corinth to me was only in the starsÃ¢ÂÂ¦" (754-755). If Oedipus were to consider other factors and stay in Corinth he would not have ended up slaying his father and marrying his mother, thus, another rash decision leads to Oedipus' downfall. Irony is a literary device that is widely used in Oedipus Rex to help convey the faults of Oedipus' character to the reader. The statement "I have sent CreonÃ¢ÂÂ¦to DelphiÃ¢ÂÂ¦ to learn there, if he can, what act or pledge of mine may save the city." is extremely ironic because Oedipus' act of murdering king Laios is what originally put Thebes in such a fowl state. Another example of how irony is used to show how ignorant Oedipus is of past events is how he describes himself as being "a stranger to the crime" of killing king Laios, even though it was he who murdered king Laios. Perhaps one of the most ironic situations in the entire tragedy is how Oedipus, after he, "ripped from her gown the golden broachesÃ¢ÂÂ¦and plunged them straight into his eyeballs," could finally see the truth of his past(1220-1222). Though he was physically blind he was now enlightened unlike before when Oedipus "had neither sight nor knowledge" (1429). Furthermore, Oedipus tells a desperate crowd that his "restless thoughts walked many ways" (69). This statement is very ironic because Oedipus' thoughts never consider more than one path. He is a man of closed minded and arrogant nature who refuses to look at situations in a different light. Only a few lines after this one does Oedipus state that there is only one helpful path in the search for the salvation of Thebes, further proving that Oedipus has a one-track mind. Hefner 4 Another literary technique that helps exhibit the flaws that Oedipus holds is foreshadowing. In the prologue of the play Oedipus, the powerful king of Thebes, says that he has "been in tears for a long while" after considering the desperate condition that Thebes is currently in (68). At this point in the play it is almost absurd to think that the powerful king is literally sitting around and sobbing for his city. This line, however, is not intended to be purely black and white, but rather it foreshadows that the king will later be reduced to a pitiful bawling man. Foreshadowing is also seen in the form of a motif. Through out the tragedy several references are made to the dark and to the light. This motif of dark and light foreshadows Oedipus' passage from ignorance to knowledge. Oedipus says, in reference to finding the murder "Then once more I must bring what is dark to light." Foreshadowing his change (134). This motif can also be seen in the character of Teiresias, who is blind, but holds true knowledge. This can be seen when Oedipus mocks Teiresias' blindness by stating "but I say that you, with both eyes, are blind: You cannot see the wretchedness of your life" (399-400). This quote foreshadows that not only will Oedipus become blind, but also that he will see the true wretchedness of his own life. In summation, Sophocles' Oedipus Rex is a perfect example of how an author can communicate certain morals to their audience through the use of character flaws and literary devices.