Since the beginning of time, man has used various methods on which to pass down stories,
beliefs, and myths which explain different aspects of life. From oral tradition, to
pictographs, to clay tablets, and onto paper, all compose the world of literature. Literature
has always been an infinite realm of ideas, morals, and trains of thought. Although the
sphere of literature is encircled with extreme diversity of thought, its core is focused on
one theme: man. All literature carries with itself three main characteristics: it is written by
man, for man, and about man. Oedipus the King, the great Greek tragedy by the
unparalleled philosopher, Sophocles, is no exception to literature's domain. It deals with
one king, Oedipus, and his plight to avenge the death of his predecessor, King Laios. In
his determined search to find the murderer, he establishes a proclamation which would
demand the banishment and even the death of the murderer. In his ironic action, the reader
discovers that this murderer that Oedipus is so determined to discover is none other than
Oedipus himself. In adhesion to the definition of literature, this tragic plot reveals to the
reader three main commentaries about the nature of man: man cannot escape his past,
pride is the sin which leads man to greater evils, and although the life of man is in itself a
positive good, there will always be a shadow of terrible tragedy that falls across it.
All throughout literature, many works have portrayed characters who carry with
them a dark and gloomy past, and try to tear this shameful history of their lives from the
books of their life. Unfortunately, this is impossible due to the fact that the past is a
precursor to the present which, in turn, determines one’s future. It is one’s past that makes
one what he or she is today. For example, if an individual committed ruthless acts such as
theft or murder, was not caught by the law, and later realizes that that particular aspect of
his or her life has caused them great grief and regret, he or she will make the effort to
change and become a new individual. Let us say that individual becomes one who cares
about the welfare of others and takes social action against the injustices of society. This
individual became what he or she is today because of an incident which occurred in his of
her past. This “catching up” of the past need not always be negative and be portrayed as
some type of revenge infringed upon the individual possibly due to a vile incident in the
past, but the past will always effect the future and its toll is inevitable.
As proclaimed by the Catholic church in the middle ages, seven deadly sins exist
which ultimately lead to the loss of salvation by the soul which indulges in such evils. Of
the seven, pride has been the one which serves as the catalyst for the remaining six. Pride
creates in an individual a disposition of excessive self-love and the need to be better than
another. Once a person has excessive pride, he or she must have the satisfaction of
knowing they are better and must prove this "higher status" through material possessions
and/or power. This has led to the next sin, greed. This domino effect will continue on until
the individual recognizes his or her faults and reconciles, or until he or she has immersed
themselves in the totality of evil and suffers the consequences through death or horrible
suffering. As evidenced in this work, pride was one of the factors which helped to create
the tragic plot of the story. Both King Laios and Oedipus exhibited the characteristics of
pride. When King Laios was traveling down the path where the three roads met, he and
his men encountered a man walking alongside named Oedipus. King Laios, in his need to
show he was more powerful and of a higher status, requested his men to run Oedipus off
the road. Oedipus was angered by this show of egotism, and in his need to show he was
not someone who would take such an act, he went as far as to kill all but one of the
traveling party, even the king himself. This show of pride, in the fulfillment the prophecy,
contributed to the downfall of the protagonist and set the stage for the plot.
Man, through the definition of literature, is a fallible creature who is susceptible to
the temptations of the immoral. It is in man’s nature for him to err.