Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Comparative Essay: "Oedipus Rex" and "A Doll's House".

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In the play “Oedipus Rex” when the second messenger enters he states to Oedipus, “The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.” This line is the basis of the theme for both Oedipus and A Doll’s House. Even though the two plays are very different and set in different times the underlying lesson they are both addressing is the same. Both Oedipus and Nora wind up having to answer for the sins they have committed.


Oedipus is a character of grand magnitude. He is a king, rich, powerful a leader of a nation that has a plague running through it. When the play opens we learn from the Priest that “The herds are sick; children die unborn, And labor is vain. The god of plague and pyre Raids like detestable lightning through the city, And all the house of Kadmos is laid waste”. The people are looking to Oedipus for an answer that will set things right again and rid them from this curse. “Therefore, O mighty King, we turn to you; Find us our safety, find us a remedy.” It is revealed that the answer to the ills of the nation can be found by finding the man who had killed the King that preceded Oedipus as ruler. Oedipus vows to find this man and obtain revenge for the murder of his predecessor. He is unaware that the person he is seeking is himself. When Oedipus is told by the profit, Teiresias, that it is himself that he seeks, Oedipus responds by calling him a “sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man!” Oedipus is in extreme denial of his deeds. It does become clear to Oedipus that indeed he had a marriage that was based on lies and deception. He had fulfilled the prophecies and murdered his father, married his mother and he was indeed both father and brother to his children. He had a marriage that was based on a lie and when the lie surfaced it was horrific enough to cause the queen to kill herself and Oedipus to blind himself and impose on himself an exile which would cause him to give up his children forever.


Although Nora was a much simpler person who had committed crimes of much less magnitude the results of her actions were similar. She also had entered into a marriage that was based on lies. It was her covering up of her lies and her petty crime that caused her to become disillusioned with her life. She had forged her father’s signature on a promissory note and that was a criminal action. She was being blackmailed by Krogstad and when she tries to talk to her husband about this he expresses his opinion concerning Krogstad’s similar indiscretion as having “morally destroyed him”. Torvil tells Nora “Because an atmosphere of lies contaminates and poisons every corner of the home. Every breath that the children draw in such a house contains the germs of evil.” Nora has decided that she must leave her life and family.


Although the circumstances of the lives that Oedipus and Nora were living were very different, the factor that caused them to both enter into a self imposed exile away from their children was the same. Both characters were in marriages that they thought were good and living what they thought was a happy family life. Both of their illusions of happiness were toppled by the realizations that their own actions were the cause of their own and their family’s grief.


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