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In "Oedipus the King," Sophocles concocts one of the most famous and intricate characters of Greek drama. A tragic hero, Oedipus' desire for self-discovery and understanding inevitably leads to his tragic downfall. In the end, it can be seen that Oedipus' tragic flaw is his own determination and persistence. Oedipus is a leader. He thrives on power and thirsts for control. It is interesting to note, however, that Oedipus does not abuse his power.
Rather, Oedipus strives to better Thebes at all costs...including the cost of his own power. From the opening of the drama, Oedipus' determination is quite obvious. As king, he promises his subjects that he will rid Thebes of all pestilence and famine. This promise is backed by Oedipus' well-known victory over the Sphinx, and his people believe instantly that their king will solve all their troubles. The people of Thebes trust Oedipus because they recognize his persistence. Aside from his outward determination, many other qualities can be seen in Oedipus.
One quality of particular interest is Oedipus' morality and fairness. When taking a broad view of the play's actions, one can see that Oedipus does all he can to achieve a fair state. He pursues the "murderer" with full force in an honorable attempt to seek justice. Oedipus' morality becomes even more apparent towards the end of the play when he decides to follow through with the punishment of the murderer, even though he must leave his kingdom and his home. Oedipus, though an honorable character, is guilty. His extraordinarily complex guilt can be seen on two levels: on the level of the Gods, and on the level of the law. Oedipus has clearly broken laws and taboos through his unwholesome behavior.
More importantly, however, Oedipus has offended the Gods. He has attempted to alter the most important and immutable constant of Greek philosophy: fate. By avoiding fate early in life through feeble means (leaving his parents), Oedipus angers the Gods, and eventually pays for his wrongdoing through his own punishment. Though Oedipus is guilty, his self-banishment relieves his guilt and redeems his character. Throughout the drama, Oedipus relentlessly strives to discover two seemingly polar entities: the murderer of Laius, and his own true identity. In the end of his tragic downward spiral of truth, however, Oedipus discovers their equality. Oedipus' own seemingly beneficial characteristic of determination inevitably causes his tragic fall from dignity and grace.
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