In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, one of Oedipus’s strongest motivating forces is the desire to know the truth. Throughout the play, Oedipus is guarded from the truth and shocked by it’s reality, but ultimately he embraces it as his own. It is this journey, from confusion and pain to acceptance, which enables Oedipus to grow in wisdom.
Oedipus’ reign as king is characterized by his constant probing for the truth. Despite his prominent role in society, Oedipus’ life remains riddled with uncertainties. An ominous shadow looms over his past and his origins and has settled over his kingdom. Despite foreboding that this pollution of Thebes may be his own blood, Oedipus is determined to find the truth behind the mystery.
The first time Oedipus hears his name uttered as the murderer of the late King Laius, it is from Teiresias. Shocked, Oedipus launches into a violent rage of disbelief, cursing Teiresias’ “impudent malice” (66). In an attempt to comfort him, Jocasta abruptly dismisses the prophecy, claiming that life was ruled by nothing but pure chance. Oedipus’s conscious, however, is not satisfied, and he continues questioning and searching for the truth. Gradually, Oedipus puts the pieces of his past together. Finally aware of the whole truth, Oedipus is not relieved, but horrified at the lie which he had been living. Overcome with grief, he gouges out his eyes and exclaims, “all is true! Light! Let me look my last on thee, for I stand naked now” (85). Despite his unimaginable pain, however, Oedipus does not kill himself. He realizes that despite its misfortunes, his life holds mysterious purpose and great weight both for himself and those around him. Aware of the grim repercussions his suicide would have on his family and his kingdom, and also of a new necessity to fulfill his purpose in life, Oedipus goes into exile and bravely continues forth with his life.
Throughout Sophocles’ play Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is ceaseless in his journey for the truth, despite its painful consequences. Although the reality of his troubled past may have brought Oedipus despair, it was the journey for this truth that changed Oedipus forever. As a result of his trials, Oedipus was forced to realize an entirely new sense of responsibility, for his family and his kingdom, bur also for his own destiny. Despite his initial confusion and grief, Oedipus emerged from his trials with a strength of character and maturity that could have been achieved no other way. Through Sophocles’ portrayal illustrates the story of every man’s struggle to find truth and purpose in their lives. Although the truth does not necessarily “set one free,” the journey for truth is inevitable and its consequences continue to shape our character and our lives until the day we die.