Oedipus the King - The Character Transformations of Oedipus
Through the character of Oedipus, Sophocles shows the consequences of defying the divine order. Oedipus served Thebes as a great ruler, loved by his subjects; but, like most in the human race, he slipped through the cracks of perfection. Oedipus had many faults, but it was primarily the tragic flaw of hubris, arrogance from excessive pride, which doomed his existence, regardless of the character attributes that made him such a beloved king. He was doomed for downfall since his very beginning, because "to flee your fate is to rush to find it" (Oedipus Rex).
Oedipus, throughout this work, seems more than a merely passive player lost in the hands of fate. He makes critical errors in judgment that set the events of the story into action. His pride and arrogance, blindness and ignorance, as well as foolishness and quick temper all play a part in the tragedy that befalls him.
Oedipus's pride sets it all off; when a drunken man tells him that his father is not who he thinks, his pride is so wounded that he will not let the subject rest, eventually going to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi to find the truth. A less proud man may have not needed to visit the oracle, giving him no reason to leave Corinth in the first place (Segal, 121). It is impossible to speculate what may have happened to Oedipus had he stayed in Corinth, but it is the attempt to avoid his fate that dooms him not only to fulfill the prophesy, but to suffer yet greater consequences (Segal, 122). "I heard all that and ran. I abandoned Corinth, from that day on I gauged its landfall only by the stars, running, always running toward some place where I would never see the shame of all those oracles come true" (876-880).
Furthermore, Oedipus's pride continues to be a flaw that leads to the story's tragic ending. He is too proud to consider the words of the prophet Tiresias, choosing instead to rely on his own sleuthing powers. Tiresias warns him not to pry into these matters; "Just send me home. You bear your burdens, I'll bear mine. It's better that way, please believe me" (364-366). However, pride in his own intelligence leads Oedipus to continue his search. "For the love of god, don't turn away, not if you know something" (371-372). Oedipus values truth attained through scientific inquiry over words and warnings from the gods, as this is a result of his pompous pride.
Along with this pride, Oedipus is a seeker of truth. He shows himself to be a thinker, a man good at unraveling mysteries. This is the same characteristic that brought him to Thebes; he was the only man capable of solving the Sphinx's riddle. His intelligence is what makes him great, yet also contributes to making him tragic. His problem solver's mind leads him
on as he works through the mystery of his birth. In the Oedipus myth, marriage to Jocasta was the prize for ridding Thebes of the Sphinx. Thus, ...