Critical Lens Essay It has been noted that, “Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will. ” Fate is often thought to be predetermined by a higher being; it is inevitable. Free will is the complete opposite of fate, a person has the freedom to choose and decide his destiny. In the quote “the hand you are dealt” can be seen as fate, and “the way you play” is free will. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles shows that fate and free will go hand in hand. Jocasta and Laius, Oedipus’ parents, do not pay attention to the prophecy given by the prophet Teiresias.
He tells them their fate; the new born baby will kill his father and marry his mother. Both Jocasta and King Laius take precautions to make sure this prophecy does not take place. They rid their new born baby by sending him off to a shepherd who in turn will put him on a mountain to die. However in the end Oedipus kills Laius, becomes king, and marries Queen Jocasta, just as the oracle said. It is free will that makes Oedipus’ parents send him off to the mountain. Little do they know, he is not killed and they still met their fate.
After Oedipus tells Jocasta about what he hears from Teiresias, Jocasta says “A prophet? In that case, rid your mind of your fear, and listen to me…there is no human being born that is endowed with prophetic power. And I can prove it to you – and in a few words… Don’t pay any attention to prophecies. If God seeks or needs anything, he will easily make it clear to us himself. ” (41) She tells Oedipus that the prophecy the oracle told her about the baby she had in the past does not come through. While, Oedipus is standing right before her eyes and uses a true prophecy to defend her claim.
Oedipus himself makes choices that move him one step closer to his ultimate fate. “Now my curse on the murderer, whoever he is a lone man unknown in his crime or one among many, let that man drag out his life in agony, step by painful step…” (different version of book around 15-16). Here, King Oedipus wants to rid the country of its defilement and he tries to scare the people into leaving. All he does is curse himself, not once, but twice. Oedipus tells the people of Thebes that whoever is the killer of Laius, he is going to send him to exile in the mountains.
It is his choice to call down a curse. Unfortunately, he is shameful once he finds out he is the killer, and sends himself to exile. Sophocles does an amazing job at showing how stubbornness can lead to an ill-fated unveiling of information. Teiresias grows impatient with Oedipus and says “You are the murderer, you are the unholy defilement of this land. ” He tells him the truth after he pressures him to. Once he hears this, he does not believe what he is hearing; he is blind to the truth, so he mocks Teiresias.
After Teiresias is fed up with Oedipus he calls out another prophecy “this man whom thou hast sought to arrest with threats and warrants this long while, the wretch who murdered Laius–that man is here. He passes for an alien in the land but soon shall prove a Theban, native born. And yet his fortune brings him little joy; for blind of seeing, clad in beggar’s weeds, for purple robes, and leaning on his staff, to a strange land he soon shall grope his way. And of the children, inmates of his home, He shall be proved the brother and the sire, Of her who bare him son and husband both, Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.
Go in and ponder this…” (online 444-461) Teiresias knows exactly what was to come of him. King Oedipus’ future would have been different if he was humble and took his word. If Oedipus believed that he was the killer from the very beginning, he would not be so surprised to find out by himself he could have sneaked out of Thebes unharmed. As soon as he made that choice fate bit him back. It was his choice to not believe Teiresias and he suffered in shame because of it. Sophocles wants the reader to see that the more you try to run away from fate, the harder fate will bite you back later.
If you are dealt cards in a game, poker for example, the person who deals the cards may already know what your fate may be; you will either win or lose. No matter how much you try to fool your opponents your cards will always be the same. You can’t trade them back in. This works in life as well, not only in Oedipus the King. One is born into a family and where and when he is born is something he will never be able to change. He may fool his classmates if he is ashamed of it, but the truth will most likely come out.