Oedipus the Everything but King
No Name World Literature 1 Character Analysis “Oedipus the King”… Hunter, Plowman, and Sailor-Helmsman Throughout the play “Oedipus Rex”, the main character Oedipus has a number of different character traits throughout the play. His out-look on the stories situation evolves as he begins to learn the truth about who he really is. Oedipus takes on the characteristics of a hunter as well as becoming the hunted; he is a sower yet also the seed, and a sailor-helmsman of the city. Each of these images has their own significance.
Oedipus first starts out as the hunter once he marries the queen of Thebes. Once betrothed, Oedipus is told that, Laius, the late king of Thebes was murdered by a robber. Oedipus says that he will exile or execute Laius’ killer once he is found. The irony to his statement is that he will have to catch and exile himself because in actuality he is the man who killed Laius. Oedipus then goes from being the hunter to the hunted, not knowing the man he is looking for is actually him himself.
He proceeds to tell his men to “Hunt him down with all your strength” but in essence he’s telling his men to hunt him which makes him the hunted. Oedipus asks Tiresias to speak on behalf of what he knows and when he does not this upsets him. Oedipus begins to mock Tiresias about the fact that he cannot “see” and in return Tiresias says the same thing to Oedipus. Tiresias is blind but he is the one who sees Oedipus’ future clearly and Oedipus is not and can’t see what his future holds at all.
In mocking Tiresias, Oedipus reaps the consequences of his actions because he later takes his own sight. Oedipus is also considered a sower because he married and had children; however he is his mother’s seed and ironically he married and reproduced with his mother. By definition plowman prepare the fields with seeds and expect plants to be produced. Oedipus and widowed Queen Jocasta marry, are intimate and reproduce children.
The imagery is the same for Jocasta and her first husband King Laius as that for her second husband, Oedipus: like father, like son as it turns out. The Sailor-helmsman is in essence is the person who guides a ship. Oedipus being king of Thebes is supposed to steer the people out of harm’s way. Oedipus thought that he was doing the right thing by leaving the place he thought was home when he was told he would kill his father and marry his mother; only the thing was the parents he knew of in Corinth were not his actual parents.
After Oedipus leaves Corinth, because of all that he has done he has brought a plague amongst his city, the city of Thebes. “The citizens are passengers of the ship watching as their captain and his vessel fall to pieces”. All of these images were ironically tied into showing the positives and negatives that contributed to Oedipus’ demise. However, this was not all Oedipus’ fault because somewhere down the family line Oedipus’ family was cursed and he had nothing to do with it, he was just the one who would complete the curse which leads to his undoing.