Critical Analysis Oedipus the King






Critical Analysis: Oedipus the King


The ability to effectively incorporate all the aspects of an ideal piece of literature in literary writing plays a critical role in enhancing the credibility of the end product. Most literary works have been increasingly criticized for failing to meet the basic standards of literature. This has had various implications as their artistic styles have been greatly undermined and the goals of the authors compromised. This paper provides a critical review of the novel Oedipus and analyzes its themes, style, structure and plot. This is geared towards determining whether this piece of literature meets the basic standards of an ideal literary work.

The story explores the fate and tragedies that the King of Thebes faces during his reign. In particular a hereditary curse is placed on his life and he suffers severe consequences. When Thebes experiences various problems such as plagues and fires, Oedipus decides to take the challenge of putting measures in place to restore prosperity and life in this kingdom. Later on he discovered that his actions reflected the curse that was placed upon him at birth. In particular, he found out that he was the one responsible for the death of his father and that he had married and had children with his mother. He is dismayed when he realizes that he is not the identity that he had always thought he was. This discovery makes his wife-mother commit suicide and Oedipus makes him self blind and later retreats in exile.

The author’s characterization can be considered to be very impressive. He breaks the monotony of according a hero a virtuous character and makes Oedipus to be a representation of both good and evil. Aristotle praises this characterization and indicates that it has a desirable impact on the audience who experience feelings of pity as well as fear at the same time while they watch the play (83). Essentially, Oedipus’ character falls between the two extremes of being both to good and experiencing a severe misfortune that is perpetuated by his past vices.

However, it is notable that in the prologue, he employs numerous characters that assume various roles. This can easily confuse a reader and undermine the understanding of the entire story. Nevertheless, it can be contended that he effectively addresses the vital events and informs the reader about their role in the development of the plot in a timely manner. This enhances harmony within the text and plays a fundamental role of preventing conflicting episodes. In this respect, Fry shows that the presentation of the exodus in the prologues and consultation of Oedipus with the elders are instrumental in revealing to the audience the fate of Oedipus (94).

His exploration of various related themes can also be considered very effective. In this respect he introduces the themes at different stages and uses the characters to make the reader to recognize the same with ease. For instance he evaluates the theme of knowledge and ignorance and uses the same to demonstrate the notion of reversal. This is manifested when Oedipus makes an effort to overcome his ignorance by searching for important information regarding his origin. He believed that his would enable him to deliver his subjects from suffering and make his reign successful. However the implications of this generate counter effects as they lead to his self destruction. Further, in his review, Bates asserts that the plot of the story has a great impact to its audience (52). This is due to the fact that it has the ability to stir emotions in persons that watch it, read it and those who merely hear it.

However, the plausibility of some of the actions of the characters has greatly been contested by Thornton who argues that they do not reflect the historical background of the setting (125). A classic example in this regard has been cited to be the ignorance of Oedipus regarding the death of his father. Thornton argues that the author fails to provide a viable reason that would justify this ignorance to the reader (127). This raises more controversy especially considering the fact that in the Greek history, the origins of a leader were greatly scrutinized before he could assume leadership. In addition, the decision of the King to consult the oracle even after he had learnt about the existence of important persons such as the shepherd that could provide fundamental and factual information about his origin has undergone scrutiny.

The author employs various stylistic devices that make the story more interesting. In particular, Bates indicates that he employs suspense that keeps the reader unaware of the events that would follow (88). He uses his characters to mold various actions and ensures that relative ramifications remain unknown to the reader until after the event has occurred. Notably, his diversification of the stylistic devices also contributes significantly to enhancing and maintaining the interest of the reader. He uses suspense symbolism, imagery and chorus to relay vital information and uphold the interest of the reader.


From this analysis, it can be contended that the author structures the play in an effective manner. In addition his presentation of vita information through various stylistic devices proves effective in maintaining the interest of the reader in the novel. Of great importance however is his explicit exploration of various themes though the experiences and activities of his characters. Irrespective of the fact that part of the books content is disputable, it can be concluded that the book meets the basic standards of credible literature.

Works Cited

Aristotle. The Poetics. UK: Heinemann 1947.

Paul, Fry H. Homer to Brecht: Reviewing European Classics. Yale: University Press, 1987.

William, Bates N. Sophocles: Drama and Poetry. Oxford: University Press, 1958.

Wilder, Thornton. Characterization of American Essays. USA: Longman, 1988.