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Oedipus Rex The Oedipus Complex

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Oedipus Rex: The Oedipus Complex Essay, Research Paper

Thousands of years after Sophocles wrote the story of Oedipus Rex; psychologists named a complex after the behavioral characteristics of Oedipus. For many years psychologists have called a son having a sexual attraction toward his mother the Oedipus Complex. It is common belief that Oedipus Rex did not actually suffer from the Oedipus Complex. The basic support for this theory can be found through Oedipus’ inherent fear of the prophecy placed upon him, by the Oracle, actually coming true.

Oedipus is told, by a member of the royal court, of the prophecy of the Oracle. The love for his mother and father, and the mere thought of the prophecy drives Oedipus into retreat. He fears that if he stays in Corinth, that the prophecy may come true. This is clearly one sign that Oedipus did not suffer from the Oedipus complex. The thought alone of doing such a thing as having sexual relations with his own mother drives Oedipus from Corinth, away from royalty, and the only life he has ever known. If Oedipus really did suffer from the complex, he would not have run away from his life, subconsciously he would want to stay, and probably would have. Oedipus not only fears the prophecy as a younger man, but also as king of Thebes when the prophecy returns to haunt him.

Oedipus sends Creon to the Oracle to find out the true killer of the former king of Thebes. When Creon returns and tells Oedipus what the Oricle has told him, him ignites. Oedipus flies into a furious rage accusing Creon of scheming to over through Oedipus. Oedipus refuses to believe that a prophecy such as that could ever come true and that Creon was either lying or has bribed the Oracle into giving a false prophecy. Oedipus immediately demands the retrieval of the Oracle to the palace. This shows an undying relentlessness toward proving the prophecy wrong. Oedipus plainly does not want to come to the reality that would ever do anything along the lines of what the prophecy states, and he truly believes that it must be incorrect because he knows he would never consciously do anything like that. After the Oracle’s prophecy is brought to Oedipus, the king’s denial only increases. The Oracle’s future visions scare Oedipus into fury. Enraged he claims that the Oracle clearly has no real powers, and denies any truth out of his prophecy. Oedipus has entered the point of anger at this point. He refuses to believe it clearly because the mere thought of it sickens him. If he were to truly have the complex, he could not fight the facts for as long as he did. Not even after finding out the truth did he collapse into the acceptance that he wanted to do it.

As soon as the reality of the prophecy sits in, the queen commits suicide. Oedipus takes it upon himself to carryout self-inflicted punishment for the sins he finally realizes he has committed. If Oedipus had truly wanted to have sexual relations with his mother, then he would not have committed such a horrendous act of mutilation upon himself? To commit suicide would not be out of the question if he had been suffering from the complex. Loss of his adoration could be a justified motive. Yet he pierced his own eyes out because he was ashamed to look at his parents in the afterlife. This level of humility would not be present if Oedipus knew that Jocasta was really his mother. If Oedipus were to truly have the complex, then he probably would never have arrived in Thebes in the first place.

If Oedipus Rex was suffering from the Oedipus Complex then he would have probably stayed in Corinth where he believed his true mother resided. He would not have known Jocasta of Thebes in a sexual manner if he had acquired an attraction to what he thought was his birth mother, Marope. If Oedipus Rex had suffered from the Oedipus complex, then we might have never heard the story of Oedipus the way we did, and his situation, in turn, would probably have never been called the Oedipus Complex.


Sophocles, Oedipus the King. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry,

and Drama. Eds. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 2nd Compact ed. New York: Longman, 2000. 960-1000.

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