Oedipus and The Help comparative essay

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Tran 1
Amanda Tran Professor S. Sharma ENG 4U 3/27/2015

Elements of A Tragedy in King Oedipus and
The Help by Sophocles and Stockett:
The Art in A Tragedy

“Tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude, in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play. Through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions” (Aristotle, trans. 1974, VI). Although the popularity of tragedies rose during the time of Sophocles, it is true that many elements of a tragedy still appear in modern literary pieces today. In the literary pieces
King Oedipus written by Sophocles and
The Help written by Kathryn
Stockett, both authors skillfully depict tragic elements within the fictional works. It is shown through the suffering of the protagonist as they endure misfortune, which ultimately brings forth feelings of
Catharsis
on the part of the audience. This proves that both literary pieces possess elements of a tragedy as defined by Aristotle’s
Poetics.

Although the fiction pieces
King Oedipus and
The Help occur at a different time in history and are written by different authors, both protagonists possess multiple characteristics of a tragic hero as defined by Aristotle. Primarily, both protagonists occupy a high status position towards the beginning of the fiction pieces and in addition, embody nobility and virtue as part of

Tran 2 their character. Oedipus, in
King Oedipus was considered a high society figure in two ways. He was “the honoured Prince of Corinth” and later saves the the City of Thebes from famine brought from a Sphinx (Sophocles, 24) . “[Oedipus] answered [the Sphinx’s] riddle and destroyed her power, and so was received joyfully into Thebes as her King” (Sophocles, 24). According to
Aristotle, a tragic hero has extreme pride and a reflection that suggests superiority to men which ties into the embodiment of nobility and virtue derived from the
9 Noble Virtues. Oedipus accurately reflects this because as King he is considered “a happy man, a wise and resourceful man and a man of peace” (Sophocles. 24). He acts for the greater good of families and the community, rather than just for working for personal pleasure. In addition, Skeeter Phelan from
The Help was considered as a high society figure as well. She is born into a wealthy white family that owns a “ten thousand acre cotton [field]” and was also a highly educated woman during this time who graduated from Ole Miss (Stockett, 55), “while [Skeeters] friends were out drinking at parties, [she] sat in the study Parlor” (Stockett, 58). Skeeter achieves the characteristic of possessing high status not only by being born into a high ranking family, but by also practicing nobility and virtue through the demonstration of courage, truth and honour. “[Skeeter] wants to write [a book] showing the point of view of the help. The [help] raise a white child and then twenty years later the child becomes the employer” (Stockett, 106). Skeeter thinks it’s ironic that
“[the help] loves the children and the children love [the employers] yet [the employers] don’t even allow them to use the toilet in the house” (Stockett, 106). Skeeter acts out with bravery even when she is afraid of the consequences she may face. Furthermore, she sticks to her beliefs and does not avoid the truth and lastly, is committed to live by the standards that she believes she should earn the respect of others. Skeeter doesn’t assume that she is better than someone else by

Tran 3 respecting others rights and beliefs, because she too had a maid she once loved and “knew everything about” (Stockett, 61). Summarily, despite the differences in the literary works, both authors portray the protagonists in the fictional pieces as characters possessing high status position amongst…