Jungian Archetypes and Oedipus the King
The play Oedipus the King by Sophocles has multiple examples of collective unconscious archetypes from the theories of Carl G. Jung. In general Jung's theories say that there are archetypes that define the world, its people, and why people participate or commit certain activities. Jung explains that these archetypes are harbored in the collective unconscious of every person's mind. The archetype of the hero is one of them. The middle of Oedipus the King shows the character Oedipus as the Jungian archetypal hero and sacrificial scapegoat.
In order to understand Jung's theory of archetypes, the reader must first have an understanding of the reasoning behind them. Carl G. Jung explains the conscious mind by dividing it into three different psyches: the ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The ego is simply Jung's interpretation of the conscious mind. The personal unconscious is anything that is not presently conscious, but can be. The collective unconscious is a reservoir of human experiences that is passed from generation to generation. It includes the archetypes of self, which are archetypes for different kinds of people or characters in literature (Jung 67). They can be described as things such as déjà vu, or love at first sight. It is the feeling that what is being felt or experienced has been felt or experienced before.
Jung describes the hero as an "archetype of transformation and redemption," (Guerin 163). The character of Oedipus is a concrete example of Jung's hero archetype. Jung says that the hero archetype first goes through the "quest" to become a hero. The "quest" of the hero in Jungian theory is described as a "long journey in which the hero is encountered with impossible
tasks, battles with monsters, solves unanswerable riddles, and overcomes insurmountable obstacles to save the kingdom and marry the princess," (Guerin 163). Jung's theory also says that often the hero becomes the sacrificial scapegoat for his people or country. The sacrificial scapegoat is defined as a hero who must die for the well being of his country, people, or for the sins of his people in order to save the land (Guerin 163). In addition Jung says that the death of the hero as a sacrificial scapegoat can often be attributed to the hero's hubris, or excessive pride in themselves and their accomplishments (Guerin 168).
Oedipus is an archetypal hero because he follows the quest, and is later the sacrificial scapegoat. His quest is when he leaves his parents, who have raised him, Dorian Merope and Polybus, out of fear of the oracle. Oedipus performs the impossible task of answering the riddle of the sphinx and saves the city of Thebes. His quest ends with him marrying the queen rather than the princess, and becoming the king.
Later Oedipus becomes the sacrificial scapegoat as he discovers his fate. Everyone in Thebes identifies with Oedipus as their hero. Both the...