Tuesday, February 19, 2013

226. Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Sophocles' Oedipus Rex - written around 430 BC - is a classic tale of fate (destiny) versus choice. It addresses the dilemma that has afflicted man since the beginning of time. For instance, in most cultures people attribute every occurrence - good or bad - to an omnipotent, omniscient being. Yet the fate-choice inclination has consequences on responsibility; if we live by fate must we not blame fate for what we do? If so then crime becomes an item of fate. The fate-choice continuum then becomes difficult to extricate, swinging from end to end depending on the fallout.

In this story, though the philosophical conundrum was somehow not resolved, it was clear that Oedipus' behaviour contributed to the fulfilment of the prophecy surrounding his birth. Thus, if fate takes into considerations one's character and character feeds into choices then fate is difficult to change by actions; that is, assuming that ones character is not dynamic or is robust to exogenous variables.

The other questions that could be raised is, should Oedipus have set out heavy penalty for the perpetrator? Death Sentence is okay except when it is your son or daughter. People who don't have their 'skin in the game' (to loosely quote Nassim Taleb), can proffer any advice they want. It is therefore imperative that we are just and principled to all including ourselves and know that what we set out to do to others might one day be done against us: the laws we set today, will tomorrow be used to charge us.

Nevertheless, there is one thing that stood out concerning Oedipus' character. He was a man of principle and of great astuteness. He faithfully accepted his crime and even though he could have watered it down or accepted reprieve from the senators, he sought to be the man of pride and principle. 

I read this book because I had already read and enjoyed The Gods are not to Blame a pastiche by Ola Rotimi. It is also good to read the original book on which another is based upon. And for a book to have survived this long, it means it can survive more; hence no need for me to say it is recommended, though I just did.


  1. Fate is a hard nut to crack, and you never know just what is coming, both for you and for the ones you love. I think I would like to read this one and discover the story for myself. It sounds like something that I would get a lot out of. Excellent review today, Nana.

    1. Thanks. You should read this classic. It's interesting; you can also add The Gods are not to blame to it though it won't change much.


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