Salley Vickers rereads the Oedipus myth | Books | The Guardian
Oedipus killed King Laius at a place "where three roads meet," or a triple crossroad. Typically, crossroads symbolize a choice to be made. Yet because the . Oedipus hears the prophecy. At a place where three roads meet, he argues with and kills a man Thinking the. King of. Corinth is his father, to escape his. No natives, at a spot where three roads meet. Jocasta: Phocis the land is called; the spot is where. Branch roads from Delphi and from Daulis meet. Oedipus.
It begins with an attempted infanticide. Oedipus's parents, the king and queen of Thebes, put him, as a newborn baby, out on a mountainside to die, with his ankles cruelly pierced and shackled. It is sometimes suggested that, since exposure was an occasional practice among the ancients, it is a misreading to import a modern judgment of this crime. But it is an error to assume that the sensibility of past civilisations is fundamentally alien to our own. In all known societies, infanticide by a mother is considered especially shocking.
Nor would infant exposure by the privileged have been exonerated. It was the last resort of the poor, and then tended to be the fate of an unwanted female child. This bleak event prompts a more heartening one. The parents' agent in the murder, a shepherd commanded to expose the child, succumbs to that most incalculable of all human attributes, kindness. The baby is given to a childless royal couple, who, unaware that they have a foundling prince on their hands, raise him as their own son and prince of Corinth.
But a day of reckoning comes when, through a chance remark, the question of Oedipus's parentage begins to disturb him. And he sets out to close the fateful circle that will link him to his past and reveal his true origins. Jocasta and Laius, Oedipus's natural parents if we need reminding of what the word "natural" can encompass, then we need only look to the Greeksexecute the original atrocity to avert the greater tragedy they believe their son's birth will precipitate.
And they do so because of a pronouncement by the Delphic oracle, mouthpiece of the god Apollo. The oracle is said to have said - the uncertainty is relevant - that if Laius has a son, he will be the death of his own father and will marry his mother.
When the son, who has survived his parents' attempt to obliterate his existence, demonstrates his kinship with them by appealing to the same oracle, he hears a similar message. In an effort to save all concerned, he sets out to put as much distance as he can between himself and those he takes to be his family, apparently forgetting all the doubts about his origins.
But as the Greeks knew, you can't outwit an oracle. Hurrying from Delphi, Oedipus meets a party coming in the opposite direction at a place where three roads meet.
The head of the party attacks Oedipus viciously because he is in the way and, in retaliation, Oedipus strikes back at the seeming stranger. And, of course, he kills his father, thus creating a vacancy for himself on the Theban throne and, more excitingly, in his own mother's bed. As we all know now know, this story supplied Freud with the narrative that underpinned his theory of infant sexuality. Freud saw Oedipus as the exemplar of the twin impulses, to patricide and incest, which he knitted together into the complex to which he gave Oedipus's name.
The Oedipus complex was to become the linchpin of Freud's theory and for the rest of his life provoked his fiercest rows and most impassioned defence. I first began to consider the myth as Freud interprets it as part of my own psychoanalytic training. And it seemed to me then, as now, a misreading. Oedipus is the one person whom it is safe to say doesn't have the complex named for him.
He is a fully potent adult male when he encounters his bellicose father and takes first his life, then his place as ruler of Thebes and husband of the widowed queen. And it seemed to me, too, that Freud had missed something every bit as taboo as infantile sexual desire - the parental wish to annihilate their own offspring and the inevitable recoil that brings.
In the logic of the narrative, this act is the mainspring of all that follows.
ESSAY ON OEDIPUS'S SYMBOL OF THE CROSSROAD
It is as if, the myth tells us, the procreative principle is haunted by a harrowing spectre - the countering impulse to destroy whatever is closest to us. Where Freud had a point, though, is that Sophocles's drama unfolds in a manner very similar to the process of an analysis. At the start of the play, Oedipus is cock of the roost - successful ruler, faithful husband and father, and wholly unconscious of his own antecedents and the threat to his sense of identity that lies hidden in his own history.
Most of us organise our lives on the basis of not knowing who or what we are, and what makes Oedipus unusual is that he sets about disrupting this state of affairs, although quite unwittingly at first. A terrible plague has visited the city and once again the oracle is applied to for an explanation. The Delphic oracle is a very mysterious agency indeed, and what makes Sophocles's play so enduring is that its prophecies work both as determining causes and the ambiguous potential of free will.
The pronouncements of Apollo arrive only by indirection. Then it comes down to the final option which Oedipus kills Laius and most of his entourage. These three paths emphasize the various ways Oedipus's life may turn out. Then again, these three roads may also allude to Oedipus's life but in terms of time.
Each of the roads may represent the past, present, and future. The crossroad is ultimately where the past, present, and future collide with each other. The past finally catches up with the present as Laius and Oedipus meet again. Once Oedipus loses his temper, he embarks on the road to his future. Furthermore, the number three can come down to the circumstances of Oedipus's birth. This may be the reason why three is such a symbolic number.
The unraveling of the prophecy begins to unfold after the exile of Oedipus. Hypothetically, we can assume three is an extremely significant number. After Oedipus's abandonment, the number three arises in several points of the play.
Look back to the previously mentioned hypothetical connotations.Oedipus Rex: The Sad Story of King Oedipus - Greek Mythology - Oedipus Story Part 3/3
These connotations occur when Oedipus grows up. His birth parents' rejection eventually releases a chain of events to play out in his life. Consequently, my interpretation of the symbol of the crossroads changes my earlier perceptions of the play. There are suspicions that the prophecy comes true especially when Tiresias the blind prophet proclaims " the killer you are seeking for " is Oedipus Sophocles I infer Oedipus has been condemned to lead the life in accordance to the prophecy.
There are no ways out of this disastrous situation. Fate is undoubtedly irreversible and rigid with no loopholes. Then the symbol of the crossroad sparks some hope and assumptions of changing the prophecy. If we take in account the three paths, we can spur three distinctive outcomes. What if Oedipus indeed went home after hearing the oracle? He would have gone back to his kingdom and eventually rise as King of Corinth.
He and Laius may not meet ever again. If they did, it might not be under the predicted circumstances.
ESSAY ON OEDIPUS'S SYMBOL OF THE CROSSROAD
If Oedipus did not retaliate in anger to the driver, an altercation would not result in Laius's death. In the event of Laius's survival, no marriage takes place between Jocasta and Oedipus.
Oedipus would have never gone towards Thebes. All of these "what ifs" questions could alter the original story. I keep in mind that the unfortunate fate of Oedipus likely could be prevented. However, it brings into question whether there are alternative paths in this play. After the revelation of Oedipus truly being the lost son, it is odd to hint possibilities of alternative paths earlier. Oedipus indeed makes a momentous decision at the crossroad, but it is the one he is predestined. The basis of the play is that no matter how many attempts, it is futile to escape fate.
The oracle's predictions carry out despite efforts to find loopholes. In the end, every bit of the prophecy is fulfilled.
The symbol of the crossroad falsely implies that Oedipus has several choices. This makes the readers ponder what is the reasoning behind this symbol. It seems like the play tries to mock or trick Oedipus in believing prophecies can be altered. Eventually fate overpowers everything else as seen in the circumstances revolving around Oedipus.
Blind to the truth
From the beginning, Oedipus has no chance of altering his destiny. He is doomed to the unfortunate fate of incestuous relations and murder. The symbol of the crossroad applies its literal meaning figuratively in the case of Oedipus.