Oedipus Rex: An analysis of Freewill V Determinism


Oedipus Rex a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles in about 441B.C. It is a play that deals with issues that still have relevance today. The theme of freewill versus determinism is a strong component of this play. Would Oedipus have been able to prevent the prophecy if he had acted differently?

Discuss of Freewill Vs. Determinism

Although he was saved from death and sent away from Thebes he still fulfills the prophecy. He would have preferred death that to commit such foul acts as incest and patricide. “Should mate with my own mother, and beget a brood that men would shudder to behold… murder of my own father”.[1]

Oedipus believes that due to his rescue he had no power in controlling the wheel of fate. However the symbolism of the crossroads where he killed Laius is detrimental to the play. In Ancient Greece this would have symbolized a choice.

Oedipus chose the path he faced the moment he chose confrontation and violence as opposed to fleeing. Whilst it does show he is a strong character of swift responses, these attributes of his character sealed his fate.

Themes in the play:

  • Freewill
  • Determinism
  • Patricide
  • Incest

The themes of patricide and incest are the foundations of the play. The revulsion these two themes produce is paramount.

In the time of Sophocles in ancient Greece and the performing of these plays, the spectators would have been horrified by the themes.

This disgust still has a massive impact on the audience/reader of today. It is a social taboo and in most societies and cultures there are laws prohibiting it.

Patricide and Incest:

The two acts are considered heinous, but ultimately it’s the hideous act of incest that brings about the death of Iocasta, who, too tormented by the thoughts of her actions hangs herself to escape reality.

The question of whether Oedipus could have avoided his fate must constantly be questioned although he made a choice at the cross-roads, he was left marked by being bound by the ankles as a child, was this fate’s way of marking him out for his demise or a simple mischance of luck as to be left scarred?

Oedipus as a character:

Oedipus is a complex character. He is seen morphing from a strong, clever man who outwits the Sphinx to his commanding self when he’s trying to piece together who killed Laius. Then he becomes demented and frantic upon discovery he murdered his father and the married of his mother.

He is a tragic victim at his own hand.

What Sophocles creates:

Sophocles creates a feeling of empathy for Oedipus, whether it was his freewill or fate that caused the series of events to unfold, he did not predict the outcome and you can see his utter devastation at the end.

Oedipus condemns himself to exile, he will not allow himself the release of death and punishes himself viciously “He smote his eyeballs with pins, not once, nor twice; and as he smote them blood ran down his face.”[2]

Oedipus Rex

Credit: goodreads.com

The warning:

Not only does Oedipus give the Greek audience a spectacle he gives them a warning, in the time of Sophocles the audience believed that these characters existed so not only is Sophocles warning against patricide and incest he is showing the audiences the fate of those who are involved in such acts.


[1] Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus the King and Electra, edited by Edith Hall. New York: University Press. (2008)  p.75

[2] Ibid p.92


Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

This book is a mixed bag – the characters are, on the most part, detestable. Its a novel about revenge and a demonic romance. It’s a must read for any fans of the Brontë sisters – just because.

Main characters:

  • Nelly Dean – Main Narrator
  • Lockwood – Sub Narrator
  • Heathcliff – Orphan taken in by Mr. Earnshaw. Loves Catherine desperately, married to Isabella Linton
  • Isabella Linton – Edgars sister and Heathcliff wife
  • Catherine – Heathcliffs childhood sweetheart. Married to Edgar Linton
  • Edgar Linton – Catherines husband
  • Mr. Earnshaw – Catherine and Hindleys father, adopted Heathcliff
  • Hindley Earnshaw -Mr. Earnshaws son, Catherines brother

(This is not a full character list – just the most significant)


  • Revenge
  • Love and Obsession
  • Belonging
  • Social Class

Why read Wuthering Heights?

You should read Wuthering Heights, if you’re a romantic or someone who enjoys vengeful complex characters.


It opens with the narrator Lockwood visiting his landlord in Wuthering Heights(WH). He is baffled by the behavior of the occupants. Whilst at WH, the weather becomes wild and Lockwood is forced to stay overnight.

He stays in Catherines old bedroom. He finds some of her old diaries and reads through them. Lockwood experiences something supernatural whilst in the room; this both scares and intrigues him. Once home in Thrushcross Grange he begs his servant to tell him about the occupants of WH.


Mr. Earnshaw – the then owner of WH brings home an orphan from London – Heathcliff. His son and daughter, Hindley and Catherine detest this newcomer. Hindley is vicious and cruel to him. However Catherine quickly comes to love him deeply.

Heathcliff and Catherine play together on the moors and are oblivious to any one else. Until, they meet the Lintons. Catherine becomes ill one day and has to spend 5 weeks at Thrushcross Grange. By the time she leaves she is infatuated with Edgar. She starts to spend less time with Heathcliff and more with Edgar. Heathcliff hears her say one day that she could never marry him. He leaves for three years.


In the time he’s gone, Catherine and Edgar marry. A romance doomed. Heathcliff returns sporting a mysterious fortune. He loans money to his enemy Hindley, because he knows he will drown himself in debt and drink. Hindley dies and Heathcliff inherits the estate of WH.

Cathy and Heathcliff

Catherine and Heathcliff

Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton. Catherine dies giving birth to Edgars son. Heathcliff is distraught and begs her spirit to stay on earth.


Heathcliff vows revenge on Edgar Linton – the man who stole his soul mate.

What of Catherines ghost? What of her child? What lengths will Heathcliff go to exact his revenge?

Read it to find out.

Follow this link for a cheap version of the book.

Watch part 1 and 2 of the 2009 remake of the movie here.


Favourite quote:

If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” -Catherine


I would recommend this book to Brontë fans, obviously. And to people with the believe that love can redeem the worst of people.

3 out of 5 cup rating.

This is part 3 in a series of 5.

Part 1 –  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens


Part 2 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë


Part 4 – Pride and Prejudice – by Jane Austen


Part 5 – Dracula by Bram Stoker





Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

This book is a bit complex for those who are starting their journey in classical literature. However, it is a beautiful intricate web woven  around social-class, guilt, love, lust. This book is for anyone who wants to sink their teeth into something juicy.


  • Pip – protagonist and narrator
  • Estelle – Pip’s love interest and Miss Havisham ward.
  • Miss Havisham – Man-hater
  • Abel Magwitch (The convict) -Pip’s secret Benefactor
  • Joe Gargery – Pip’s brother-in-law
  • Mrs. Joe – Joe’s wife and Pip’s sister

(This is not a full list of characters. Just those I thought to be most important)


  • Social Class
  • Ambition
  • Crime
  • Guilt
  • Innocence
  • Love
  • Heartache

Why read Great Expectations?

Great expectations  is a book by Charles Dickens, the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Most definitely worth a read.


The story opens with the main character Pip, who we meet as a young orphan living with his sister and her husband. Pip is a kind soul.

One day, whilst upon the moors, a convict called Magwitch scares Pip and orders him to get food and a file to saw off his leg irons. Pip obeys. He steals the items from his own home. The convict is captured but surprisingly protects Pip from the law by saying he stole the items himself. (more on this later, it is a key point of the novel)

One day Pip visits Satis House with his Uncle Pumplechook. Here he meets the erratic Miss Havisham. A jilted bride who wears her wedding dress all day and has every clock in the house stopped at the same time. (She’s crazy but definitely the best character in the book) Miss Havisham is raising young Estelle as her ward – she’s teaching her to break men’s hearts. Pip falls hopelessly in love with her and believes that Miss Havisham’s going to teach him how to be a gentleman.

Miss Havisham dashes his hopes after months of visiting Satis House, by deciding to help him become a common laborer. Pip is unhappy because he wants to get an education and better himself.


One day, a lawyer appears telling Pip he’s been given a fortune – Pip think Miss Havisham has finally come through and wishes him to become a gentleman so he can marry Estelle. (remember Magwitch…?)

Pip goes to London and gets his educating, shaking off old ties with family and friends at home. He considers himself above them now.


Read it to find out.


Source: yay–stefon.tumblr.com


Will Pip every reconcile with his family? Will Estelle and Pip marry? Will Miss Havisham repent for her wickedness? What’s Magwitch doing now?

Follow this link for a cheap version of the book.

You can watch the movie trailer for Great Expectation 2013 version here


“I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a challenge – 3 out of 5 cup rating.

This is part 1 in a series of 5 posts.

Part 2 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë


Part 3 – Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë


Part 4 – Pride and Prejudice – by Jane Austen


Part 5 – Dracula by Bram Stoker