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Oedipus As Scapegoat In Oedipus The King

1515 words - 6 pages

Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King 

 
    The great psychologist-philosopher Carl Jung was briefly a student of Freud. Because Jung felt that Freud's approach to psychoanalysis was by far too narrow, he broke off from his teachings, and made significant contributions to mythological criticism. Jung's greatest contribution was his theory of archetypes. His proposal of archetypes argues that there is one original pattern or model of all things of the same type. According to Jung, beneath the personal unconscious is a collective unconscious that is in the psychic inheritance of all humans. Jung thought of the collective unconscious as a sort of memory bank that stores images and ideas that humans have accumulated over the course of evolution. This theory of Jung's supported other theories that argues that humans are born with instincts. "Mind is not born as a tabula rasa [a clean slate]. Like the body, it has its pre-established individual definiteness; namely, forms of behaviour. They become manifest in the ever-recurring patterns of psychic functioning" (Guerin 175). It is important to realize that archetypes are not inherited ideas or patterns of thought, but rather that they are inclinations to respond in similar ways to certain stimuli (Guerin 175-178). One predominant archetype within mythological criticism is the sacrificial scapegoat. In Sophocles' play Oedipus Tyrannus, the archetype of the sacrificial scapegoat is carried out by Oedipus as he solves the impossible riddle of the sphinx, delivers Thebes from a horrible plague, and then takes his mother's hand in marriage.

As portrayed within Oedipus Tyrannus, the sacrificial scapegoat is "representative of the divinity whose death is preordained as an elaborate ritual of sacrifice" (Vickery 44). The scapegoat is first distinguished by his inversion of the social hierarchy. The archetype is further fulfilled by the sacrificial scapegoat being permitted to engage in sexual intercourse with a woman usually forbidden to him (Vickery 44). The scapegoat is a person blessed with special attributes - courage, strength, dedication - who is summoned by a calling which rouses him from the comfortable routines of his daily life and sets him on a road of adventure (Brunel 321). In some instances the herald that provokes the scapegoat to take action is an incident which unexpectedly disrupts his day-to-day existence. In response to the calling the scapegoat leaves his familiar surroundings and ventures out into a foreign world. This point within the scapegoat's quest is referred to as the "crossing of the threshold" because he is entering "a region of mystery and danger" (Brunel 321). Once the scapegoat has passed into the foreign world he immediately endures adventures, which often times involve his encounter with other archetypal figures (Brunel 322). Because the world that the scapegoat enters is so full of danger, he is often assisted in his adventure by various helpful beings. "The...

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