The Guilt Complex Essay

Submitted By Aliciawafa
Words: 948
Pages: 4

The Guilt Complex Guilt is a universal concept. The acceptance of responsibility for a wrongdoing and the sense that one has lowered their standard of conduct that accompanies this emotion is shared by every human within the normal confines of society, at one point in their lives or another. The idea that fate, rather than freewill, controls the lives of humans is another (hotly debated) universal, and the most timeless story is one which absorbs the universals of the human experience, and seeks to examine and explain them. It is at this junction that Oedipus Rex, a play written by Sophocles and set in Thebes, is found. The characters within struggle against, and ultimately fail to prevent, a prophecy which proclaims that Oedipus will be his father’s killer and his mother’s lover. In the end, the most powerful figures in the play are left broken or dead, but undeniably wracked with the burden of their moral perversion. The guilt felt by Oedipus and his mother in the play is a direct result of their failure to realize that their freewill, and thus their ability to make decisions about the outcome of their lives, is insignificant in the face of their fate. Fate was the ruling factor in Oedipus’ life. The horrifying prophecy was self-fulfilling, and by its existence and the natures of Oedipus and his parents, ensured its fruition. The audience, given the holistic and beneficial advantage of the third party, is able to understand the overwhelming leverage fate has as a determining force in the characters’ lives with respect to free will. The very fact that Oedipus was given to the herdsmen at birth instead of raised with his natural parents, and that rather than die in the mountains as his father had intended, he lived, raised by a different king, and fled back to his home upon hearing of the prophecy, in fear of fulfilling it, and in the process doing just that, shows the extent that the characters’ exercise of their own free will contributed to the control fate exerted in their lives. This was the underlying truth of Thebes. But this truth was not to be realized by any of the characters of Oedipus Rex. The great irony, of course, was that, had one character understood their place in the happenings of the world, and how little power they had to change the course of their lives, the entire prophecy would have fallen to pieces, unfulfilled. Jocasta and Laius (Oedipus’ birth parents) could have raised their son in peace, without turmoil. Even later on, Oedipus, upon learning of the prophecy, could have stayed in his neighboring kingdom, doing nothing, and could have also subverted the cursed words. The stubborn belief that the free will of each character could change their fate brought them significant misery. But more so, because each believed so strongly that they had control over their own destiny through the decisions they made out of free will, the characters in the play are forced to accept a responsibility in a horrendous act over which they, in reality, had very little control. This acceptance of culpability, coupled with the nature of the moral offense committed, brings on a crippling guilt for both Oedipus and Jocasta. The physical manifestations of both Oedipus’ and Jocasta’s guilt are gruesome and permanent. Jocasta hangs herself after learning that her son, her husband, and the father to her children are all the same person. Oedipus, upon seeing the woman who is his mother, mother to his children, and his lover, hanging lifeless, promptly gauges his eyes out of his sockets. These guilt manifestations are symbolic