Issues pertaining to what determines the fate of an individual have

always been controversial topics for a large number of philosophers.
Indeed, a large number of philosophers have insinuated that the fate of
an individual is determined by his actions and the decisions that he or
she makes, in conjunction with life’s contingencies. This notion has,
undoubtedly been met with immense opposition from philosophers and
scholars who insinuate that the course of life of an individual is
determined by fate or rather by an external force and especially, an
omnipotent being. Indeed, the controversial topic of freewill vs. fate
has formed a central theme in a large number of literary works and
especially Greek mythologies. This is the case Sophocles trilogy that
involves king Oedipus, Antigone and Creon. While there may be differing
opinions as to what shapes the course of life of an individual, it is
evident that character and individual decisions play an immense role in
it, alongside other life contingencies.
Nowhere in this trilogy is this notion more evident than in the life of
Oedipus Rex, in Oedipus the King. Indeed, it is evident that Oedipus was
solely responsible for the tragedy that pertains to his downfall.
Oedipus is presented with numerous choices and decision-making moments
in the play, but his stubborn and arrogant nature cause him to make
inappropriate decisions that ultimately result in his downfall. As much
as those around Oedipus may consider fate as the sole source of the
calamities that befall Oedipus, the decisions that Oedipus makes
demonstrate that he should solely be held responsible for the course of
his life. This is clearly evident at the end of the play where Oedipus
takes full responsibility for the decisions he made and the fate that
befalls him. Oedipus declares that “Now loathed by the gods, son of
the mother I defiled coupling in my fathers bed, spawning lives in the
loins that spawned my wretched life. What grief can crown this grief?
It`s mine alone, my destiny-I am Oedipus!” (Sophocles 1492). This
statement amounts to owning up to the actions that he committed
including defiling his own mother in his father’s bed. This underlines
the fact that as much as he and the people around him may believe that
the course of his life was a matter of destiny, he owns up the
responsibility for ensuring its fulfillment.
On the same note, this may be seen at the beginning of the story
especially with regard to the decisions that Oedipus’ biological
parents made. This is especially considering that the couple had been
warned about the curse that hung around their child’s head. At this
time, they were faced with the decision to kill the child so as to avert
the possibility of living that curse, or bring the child up and suffer
its fulfillment. However, the couple carelessly pinned the baby on a
mountain rather than see to it that the child is killed. Underlining the
role that the decision by Oedipus’ parents (or their character) played
in ensuring the fulfillment of the prophecy is the statement that
Oedipus makes as the play ends. He states that “If I`d died then, I`d
never have dragged myself, my loved ones through such hell” (Sophocles
1487).
In addition, the fatal and character flaws of Oedipus are greatly
revealed when Oedipus encounters Laius at a crossroads. Indeed, the
scene shows immense character flaw on the side of Oedipus, whose rage
and deficiency of self control sets him on the path to the fulfillment
of the prophecy that had been made pertaining to his destiny or fate.
Scholars have noted that the incorporation of a crossroad in the scene
is metaphorical or symbolic statement pertaining to the choices with
which Oedipus is presented. It is worth noting that Oedipus had the
choice to end the dispute between him and Laius peacefully or even turn
a blind eye on the same. However, as his character is, he decides to
lash out at Laius and his servants, killing them all. Scholars note that
the symbolic use of crossroads underlines the varied unknown outcomes
pertaining to a group of choices that Oedipus could have made. On the
same note, the literal setting of the scene at a crossroad comes in
handy as a figurative crossroad in the life of Oedipus, a stage where
Oedipus has the capacity to deviate from the fateful prophecy made at
the time of his birth or to start fulfilling it. Unfortunately, his
character flaws cause him to give in to his impulsive and quick temper,
thereby choosing the path to the fulfillment of the prophecy.
In addition, Oedipus is offered yet another opportunity to make a
choice between fulfilling the prophecy and averting the curse on arrival
at Thebes. At this time, he could have decided to move on or to marry
the queen. At this juncture Oedipus was not under any obligation or
pressure to get married to Jocasta, rather his decision was to be
determined by the values that he espoused and his character. As much as
his entire journey has been aimed at evading his destiny, this point
fulfils the prophecy entirely. At the beginning of the play, Oedipus
laments “I see- how could I fail to see” (Sophocles 70). At the middle
of the play, he comes to the realization of,”how terrible- to see the
truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees!” (Sophocles 359),
while towards the end of the play, he laments and owns up to the
fulfillment of the prophecy and states “dark horror of darkness, my
darkness” (Sophocles 1450). The figurative blindness of Oedipus may have
resulted from his arrogance and hubris. The arrogance and quick temper
makes him blind to his own flaws, causing him to live the curse and
eventually resulting to his demise. Underlining the character flaws of
Oedipus is the decision to marry Jocasta. This is especially considering
that the woman was old enough to be his mother, in which case he had a
perfectly good reason to turn down the offer and make a different
choice. However, his greed for power, arrogance and impulsive
decision-making allows him to take the other option, which results in
the fulfillment of the curse laid on him at his birth. These occurrences
underline the fact that the decisions that an individual makes,
alongside other life contingencies, determine their fate
While Antigone has resigned her life to fate, it is evident that her
character and the decisions that she makes led to the fulfillment of her
destiny and are solely responsible for what befalls her. At the
beginning of the play, Antigone has arrived and realized that her
brothers have been killed but one has been accorded a proper burial by
her uncle, Creon the king, while the other one has not had one. It is
worth noting that anyone who violates the decree of the king and
attempts to undertake the burial could only be executed. However,
Antigone makes the decision to go ahead and give her brother a proper
burial in spite of the grave consequences that would be bound to befall
her for that act. Indeed, she states that “I go to rear , A grave
above the brother whom I love” (Sophocles, line 89). This is in spite
of the fact that Creon has “proclaimed to all the citizens, that none
should give his body burial, or bewail his fate, But leave it still
unsepulchred, unwept” (line 28). Her decision to go against the
proclamation of the king is indeed testament to the fact that she drives
her fate and determines what course her life would take. Indeed, the
proclamation was not on her in particular but on anyone who defies the
king’s proclamation. Her decision, courage and unrelenting character
invite the wrath of the king and seals her fate. When caught in the act,
Antigone was asked “Didst thou not know the edicts which forbade The
things thou ownest” (line 488). Her reply to this underlines her
character as she states that “Right well I knew them all. How could I
not? Full clear and plain were they” (line 490).
In addition, it is worth noting that Antigone did not want her action
to be hidden or remain unspoken. In fact, she admonishes Ismene when she
suggests that she should not disclose the deed to anyone rather she
should “keep to close hidden” (line 94). Antigone tells her to
“Speak out! I bid thee. Silent, thou wilt be. More hateful to me than
if thou shouldst tell My deed to all men” (line 95). This means that
she despises the act of hiding deeds that she considers good, whether or
not they involve breaking the king’s decree. This courage and openness
result in her subsequent death as she is eventually caught and sentenced
to death. Even complementing the notion that character is fate is the
fact that she decides to commit suicide in pursuit of the destiny that
she strives to follow. The death is her sole decision as there is the
possibility that she would have lived after Creon realized the folly of
his mistakes and sought to save her.
In conclusion, there has been controversy as to whether the course of
one’s life is determined by external forces or an individual’s
character. The lives of Oedipus and Antigone show that character has an
immense role to play in shaping this course. Oedipus’ parents had the
choice to kill him so as to avert the prophesied fate but they decided
not to ensure the death of the child. In addition, Oedipus has character
flaws that result in fulfilling the curse. His anger cause him to
unknowingly kill his father, while he could have walked away and ignored
the conflict. It is his character flaws that also cause him to accept to
be the king of Thebes, which would entail marrying the queen who
happened to be his mother, thereby sealing his fate. Antigone’s life
is also testament to this fact as she chooses to give her brother a
burial against the king’s decree, which results in a death sentence.
She also forbids Ismene from remaining silent about this action and even
goes ahead to commit suicide when caught.
Works cited
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Literature and the Writing Process, Eight
Edition.
Eds. Elizabeth McMahen, Susan X. Day, and Robert Funk. Upper Saddle
River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. Print
Sophocles. Antigone. The Harvard Classics. (1909-14). Web retrieved from
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