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A Theme of Toxic Pride in Oedipus the King

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Pride comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be the feeling of a parent whose child graduates from college or using pride to help uplift one’s self-confidence and esteem by reflecting an intrinsically motivating “can do” attitude. To some degree, every living being needs pride, but when this self-confidence is so overwhelming that it blinds the person to the truth, it prevents one from making the right decisions and ultimately leads to their downfall. This type of pride creates a sense of isolation amongst humans; the pride that leads to arrogance and then away from humility and connection with fellow man. This can be described as Oedipus’s tragic flaw. In ‘Oedipus the King’, by Sophocles, Oedipus is an honorable king who is respected and admired by his people when the play begins, but his name is a curse by the end of the story. This is the result of his hubris: the fatal mix of arrogance and pride. His mistake or hamartia, caused by his pride and impulsive behavior, is the cause of Oedipus’ downfall.

His prideful and arrogant nature can first be seen when he leaves his adopted parents, Polypus and Merope, in Corinth. He leaves after he is told, by the oracle of Delphi, that he will, “couple with his mother, and with these very hands of his spill out the life-blood of his father”. Oedipus decides to leave Corinth in fear of this. In doing this, he is going against his fate and the gods; he is saying that he can take control of his destiny and that he can outsmart the gods. This shows his pride and his future downfall because he thinks he can escape from his fate when, ironically, it was him leaving Corinth that led him to fulfill his prophecy. However, this is just the beginning of his downfall as Oedipus further displays his excessive pride when he goes against Creon. Oedipus believes that everything is centered around him and everybody envies him; he claims that Creon is attempting to overthrow the kingdom in place of the crown. He even goes far as to blame Creon for the murder of Laius, calling him a “traitor; traitor to his town, to them the people of Thebes, and to his friends”. This is one of the causes that leads to his downfall because he is the first to accuse everybody of the troubles of his own mistakes. He uses Creon as a way to almost shadow his pride and to lie to himself by denying his fate. However, once the truth is known, all these accusations would be meaningless.

Tiresias would be the first to reveal the truth to Oedipus’s but, it is his pride that refuses to listen to these truths, which results in his downfall. Tiresias tells Oedipus that he killed Laius, yet Oedipus feels that there is no possible way he would kill the former king. Oedipus is full of so much pride that he disrespects Tiresias by calling him a “purblind man: in ears and mind and vision”. He thinks that being literally blind equates to not knowing anything, but he is the one who’s actually blind to everything including his prophecy and himself. This toxic pride would continue to blind him from making the right decisions when he continues to search for the truth against other people’s advice.

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