Q.1 What is a tragic flaw? What is Oedipus’s tragic flaw? Give examples of how this is repeatedly demonstrated in the play?
Tragic refers to a state that is perfectly characterized by the terms sorrow or extreme distress, whereas the combined meaning of tragic flaw will refer to a personality trait within an individual that becomes their eventual downfall. Aristotle’s “Poetic” gives a clear and definitive meaning to tragic flaws becoming the central idea for themes of misery and tragedy. Oedipus’s tragic flaw directs to him having hubris in terms of his knowledge and the capacity of being well informed and control the world through this knowledge. To exemplify this properly, there’s a good example found in the reading where Oedipus takes pride in his act of being the one to save Thebes from the onslaught and torment of the Sphinx. He mentions as him being the savior and the only one capable of accomplishing this act, even the blind prophet “Tiresia” who should have been all-knowing, could not solve the Sphinx’s riddle. Oedipus is also seen flaunting his wisdom, in a conversation with Tiresia stating “It was a prophet’s task and plainly you have no such gift of prophecy from birds nor otherwise from any God to glean a word of knowledge…” which explains the extent to which he dwells in his pride. However, this knowledge is what ultimately turns into the tool of his very downfall. His descent towards his downfall initiates his quest to seek out Laius’s murderer and the origins of his birth.
Q.2 Read the entire Oedipus story and think critically to answer the last question: Who pays the consequences for Oedipus’s tragic flaw? How?
Jocasta pays the price for Oedipus’s tragic flaw. Even though she tries her best and pleads for Oedipus to abandon his quest to seek out his origin, he still insists and pursues on. Finding out the truth and the connection through which the very prophecy that King Laius and Jocasta tried to prevent, happened eventually. Found out that Oedipus is the son they had tried to kill to avoid the prophecy that foretold that he would grow up to kill his father (Laius) and sleep with his mother (Jocasta). Jocasta takes her own life by hanging herself. Although, Oedipus had no intention of bringing about ill fate for both Laius and Jocasta. An old prophet gave him the prophecy that foretold about him killing his father and marrying his mother and fearing this he had left Corinth and traveled to Thebes. However, since it was his inescapable destiny, he ended up fulfilling it. Oedipus’s persistence in seeking knowledge as a means of saving himself is what brings things to this conclusion, even though he is the last one to figure it out.
Q.3 Laius and Jocasta, and Oedipus all create their fates. How do they do this? Be specific using details from the plot of the play and terms provided in the reading.
Laius and Jocasta, and Oedipus all forge their own fates in their unique way. Laius and Jocasta create their own fate when they plan to avert the prophecy by killing their son, who was destined to be the instrument of their downfall. However, everything still plays out against them and the very prophecy they attempted to avert from the beginning, eventually bears fruit and is fulfilled. From the reading, an old prophecy the King and Queen received explained the King’s death at the hands of his own son and that very son being the one to marry the Queen. The King and Queen pin the baby’s feet together and ask a shepherd to take the baby away and leave him there to die. The Shepherd takes pity on the defenseless child and hands him over on the other side of the mountain, to the King and Queen of Corinth.
Oedipus receives similar divination from a prophet and attempting to escape it, he leaves his mother and father behind, the King and Queen of Corinth, and travels to Thebes. Both of these prophecies eventually intertwine, starting with King Laius dying at the hands of Oedipus at the crossroads, ridding Thebes of the Sphinx and his (Oedipus) ascension to the throne, and marrying Queen Jocasta (his biological mother).
Q.4 What is catharsis? When, during the play, does Oedipus (and the audience) reach catharsis?
Catharsis conveys the meaning of completely relieving a person of her/her emotional stress or in other words the complete purge of depressive emotions. Aristotle presented his view on catharsis with the explanation that accompanies the fact of a protagonist’s life in such a manner that it assists in arousing an emotional response of pity, fear, and remorse among its viewer/reader. Instilling these emotions proves to be a useful step in accommodating the catharsis of such emotional responses and providing a cure to every watchful eye, curing these emotions within their hearts. Following the definition of catharsis, the audience experiences it during the part where Oedipus recognizes his part as the savior of the people of Thebes. At this moment in the play, Oedipus is overcome with feelings of shame and remorse as he mentions, “When all my sight was horror everywhere.” Another moment is when the audience is able to share their experience of pity and sympathizing with the fate that has befallen the baby, as the shepherd takes the infant into the woods. Conclusively the viewers are able to relate and at the same time feel the emotions of pity and remorse with the life of Oedipus, his tragedy, and his end.
Q.5 How might “catharsis” be psychologically, emotionally, and physically important for people to experience? Are there any rituals, ceremonies, or events in our society that aid us in reaching catharsis? What are they, and how do they help have a cathartic experience? Be specific.
Catharsis holds an important aspect of a person’s life. Explained through psychology to be linked with an emotional release which assists in the release of conflicts prevalent in an individual’s unconscious. A closer inspection of the word “catharsis” reveals the origin of the word to be from the Greek word “Katharsis” meaning the process of purification or cleansing. The term has its application in therapy practices and in literature work as well. Catharsis has its profound place in an individual’s everyday life since it expresses the experience of gaining new insight or seeking closure. To better demonstrate the term, the example of an individual going through a divorce may find themselves having a cathartic moment. This can be translated into their experience of seeking a sensation of peace, and emotional support that can help them in moving past their bad experience. People experience catharsis during situations of traumatic experiences, losing their job, an event that causes them to be stressed, or the death of a beloved one. Although holding a different perspective in psychoanalysis, the term complies with an optimistic approach toward gaining a positive edge in a person’s life.
Q.6 What is a book you have read or a movie you have seen that created a vicarious cathartic-like experience for you? What about that particular story/character/genre, etc. moved you emotionally and psychologically? Be specific and detailed.
Revenant, released in 2015, was one such movie that was able to create a cathartic moment, indulging the audience in a whirlpool of emotions. The protagonist (Hugh Glass, played by Leonardo DiCaprio) leads the audience through the experiences he faces in the bittering colds of the mountain while being brutally injured by grizzly attacks of a mother bear, abandoned by his crew, losing his son, and being at the mercy of nature. His struggle is a true depiction of a plot set on a man’s cathartic revenge. Starting from the moment with his life-threatening brawl with the mother bear, leaving him almost dead is the initial point that made the viewer completely absorbed in his struggle. One of the crew members, being tired of having to accompany him through the thick snow, decides to end the protagonist’s life but ends up killing a fellow crew member and Hugh’s son, in front of him. Hugh Glass, from there on, is set to track down the murderer of his son, to avenge his child’s death. The real heartfelt emotions are shown as Hugh, who has been badly injured, fights against all odds and continue to defy death at each turn.