Comparing And Contrasting The Purpose Of Self Punishment In Sophocles' Oedipus Rex And Ibsen's Hedda Gabler

1356 words - 5 pages

Characters that stand out are the ones that commit ludicrous actions such as self-punishment, to convey curiosity and to make a story more creative and entertaining. Self-punishment is something that both Sophocles and Henrik Ibsen incorporated into their stories, it is a way of relieving pain, suffering or an act of avoidance, which is portrayed in the play Oedipus Rex (429BC) and Hedda Gabler (1890). Hedda Gabler and Oedipus both find a way of relieving themselves through self-punishment, simply because it is the only way of overcoming their obstacles. These characters are considered different and are perceived as being more valuable characters because their punishment is the climax in the story. The audience is left to reason why they had committed this act, which gives off a lasting impression of the story and ultimately the character.
Oedipus Rex a strong, ludicrous, ignorant king; flees his ‘homeland’ in order to elude the prophecy that “he was never to enter his native land, for if he did, he would kill his father and marry his mother” (Johnson 2). Taking this action Oedipus does just what the prophet had foretold; at the point of realization, he bludgeons his eyes out as an act of self-punishment. Self-punishment is what relieves Oedipus from his pain, although by inflicting more pain on himself his actions speak louder than words. After seeing what the outcomes of his actions were, Oedipus takes away his sight so that he no longer suffers the truth. This is because he was blind to the truth his whole life. Oedipus was blinded in more than one way.
He is blinded by the truth of his life because Oedipus did not know that his real parents were Laius and Iocaste. He was furious with all those that had suggested the idea. As the pieces of the story began to fall into place, Oedipus was forced to open his eyes and face the truth. He did in fact kill his father -King Laius- and marry his mother –Iocaste-. He realized that he was the one causing all the commotion such as the plague being cast on the city by the gods. He said: “O Light, may I look on you for the last time” (Sophocles 64). The realization affects both him and his mother, one action having a ripple effect. His mother hangs herself as an act of punishment because she has discovered the truth. Oedipus sees her hanging there and takes her pins from her gown and attacked his eyeballs with them.
Oedipus was also physically blind. He “plunged [the pins] down/ Straight into his own eyeballs, crying ‘No more, / No more shall you look on the misery about me, /The horrors of my own doing!’” (Sophocles 69). Oedipus does this action as an act of self-punishment to avoid the truth and “go [back] in darkness” (Sophocles 69). The use of the word darkness portrays the unknown or a lie, something that many try to avoid, but realize that it is better than facing the truth because the truth hurts. Oedipus is now thrown into darkness and physical pain which are reminders of punishment, and...

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