Fate is an issue that is mentioned in almost every religion. The majority of people living since the beginning of time up until the present, have had a some sort of opinion on the subject. Oedipus Rex is a story that is held together by the fact that fate is more powerful than anyone’s free will. On this strong basis of fate, free will doesn’t even exist. This is a belief that can be accepted or denied, but in Oedipus’s story, fate is proved inevitable. In the very beginning of the story, before we hear from the oracle, there is already foreshadowing of Oedipus’ impending doom. He himself states to the people, “Sick as you are, not one is as sick as I” (Sophocles 5). This statement is almost eerie when looking back upon it. Alone, it seems as if he knows that he is ill-fated, but reading on he clarifies his pain in this way; “Each of you suffers in himself alone/His anguish, not another’s; but my spirit/Groans for the city, for myself, for you” (Sophocles 5). His pain is not his future, it is the plague of the country.
The same basic prophecy of Oedipus is proven in many characters. No matter how many times a specific character tried to play off fate and try to get rid of the situation it stayed exactly the same. Teiresias, the oracle, knows the end of all fate. He knows that fate controls every minute of an individual’s life; “How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be/When there’s not help in truth!” (Sophocles 16) Oedipus was told by Teiresias that in his later years he would be the killer of his own father, and would marry his own mother. In his attempt to avoid this situation, he left both of his parents and traveled to a far away city called Thebes. Once there he was married to a woman, that he himself was positive was not his mother, for his mother was the woman that he had left back in Corinth. Also, being so far from his known home, there was no chance that he could kill his father whom he had also left behind. Oedipus thought he was safe, but he was not. Oedipus is not the only one that tries to escape the curse. Iocastê also tried to escape the curse. She knows about it before Oedipus himself knows. She first hears the prophecy just days after Oedipus is born and cannot stand to live with him any more. She sends him off to be killed, thinking that she had stopped the prophecy from happening, she worries no more. Iocastê does not know the whole truth though. She does not know that the shepard had actually disobeyed her. The shepard in which she gave the baby to disobeyed her, and didn’t kill the child. Instead, in pity, he sent the baby away far enough that he thought the foretelling would not be in effect.
Again this did not stop fate. Once Oedipus found out that the people he had known as his parents were not his blood relatives, Iocastê found out what had actually happened. “For God’s love, let us have no more questioning!/Is your life nothing to you?/My own is pain enough for me to bear” (Sophocles 55). These were a few of her last words. Fate took her life. Laïos the king was also not free of the curse. He had found about it first and was the person that ordered Iocastê to get rid of the child. This did not work, because the child was still alive, and Oedipus did end up killing his true father unknowingly. In Oedipus’s conscience, he truly didn’t think that he had killed his own father, because his father was far away. In the same way, Laïos did not believe that it was his own son that had killed him. Rather, he thought that his pursuer was an angry highwayman; a stranger. All of these unproven solutions seemed very likely to avoid the curse, yet none of them worked. In Iocastê and Laïos’s attempts, their true son lived instead of being killed, and was brought to another family, in which he would grow up royally as well. When he moved away from the parents he thought was his true family, he was trying to attempt to avoid the curse by distance. In doing this, he ended up moving back to where he had been born, killing his blood father in an argument during his travels and once arriving at his destination in which he thought was distant enough, married his own mother and served in his father’s position as King. In this story, fate definitely could not be denied. Sophocles probably had a strong belief in predestiny and he demonstrated this in his story of Oedipus. Oedipus Rex is one play that is held together by the fact that fate is more powerful than anyone’s free will. In conclusion, fate is the only true evil. Everything that happens is somehow meant to be. Lastly, a little advice, “Let every man in mankind’s frailty/Consider his last day; and let none/Presume on his good fortune until he find pain/Life, at his death, a memory without pain” (Sophocles 78).
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