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The Main Character, Oedipus

In the play Oedipus the King, the main character, Oedipus tries intensively to figure out the truth about himself. There were many instances where Oedipus was looking for the truth but instead was led away from it. As Oedipus searches the city of Thebes for the truth, his ruin is ironically mentioned and foreshadowed in the narrative. His quest is revealed to him early on in the play, though it undergoes a number of changes before he is actually examining his own life and heritage. He begins with the reasonable search for the reasoning behind the death and destruction that has overcome Thebes.

This leads into his search for the man who murdered Laius, and finally to him questioning his own innocence and origin. The final stage of his search is where he becomes most intense, regretfully not considering the extent of the effect his discovery will have on him. Oedipus first investigation, as previously mentioned, relates to the terrible condition of Thebes. As father to his people, he sees the importance of relieving their suffering, and thus sends Creon to the Oracle at Delphi. Creon brings him this message from the Delphic Oracle: “expel from the land of Thebes / An old defilement we are sheltering”.

It is quickly determined between the two men that the defilement to which the prophecy refers is the murderer of Laius. Oedipus sees it as his job to rid the city of the plague. Trying to figure out who killed Laius leads him to question his own innocence, and leads into the final stage of his quest. When a messenger comes to tell him of the death of Polybous, the man Oedipus thinks is his father, Oedipus is beginning to dig into his past, going deeper than the possibility of his murdering Laius.

He has become obsessed with his search for truth to the point where the people around him worry for him. He finally draws a connection between Laius and himself, realizing the horrible truth of his very existence; he has murdered his father and married his mother. This prompts him to poke out his eyes, ending his search. Oedipus sets out to discover the truth despite his possible ruin. While he does not consider the severity of his future suffering, he still risks a great deal by continuing his search once he is insinuated in Laius murder.

This shows the amount of desire for truth and prosperity he has for his people. The continuing agony experienced by Oedipus is obvious when, after blinding himself, Oedipus refers to the fact that despite being blind he sees the truth: “The flooding pain of memory, never to be gouged out. By ruining his eyes he has only deprived himself of physical sight. The knowledge of his wretchedness is still evident in his mind, and will live on despite the removal of his eyesight.

Oedipus when, explaining his self-mutilation, says that he will not be able to “bear the sight / Of my father, when I came to the house of death”. He is ashamed to have caused his fate to come around, also causing the deaths of his parents. Had the truth been know to him from the beginning, before he even left Corinth, this suffering could have been avoided. It is said that the truth will set you free, but in the case of Oedipus, the truth drives a man to imprison himself in a world of darkness by gouging out his eyes.

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