Heroism Compare Oedipus As a Term Paper

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The tragic hero always elicits sympathy from the audience. According to Struck (2002): "Finally, Oedipus' downfall elicits a great sense of pity from the audience. First, by blinding himself, as opposed to committing suicide, Oedipus achieves a kind of surrogate death that intensifies his suffering. He comments on the darkness - not just the literal inability to see, but also religious and intellectual darkness - that he faces after becoming blind. In effect, Oedipus is dead, for he receives none of the benefits of the living; at the same time, he is not dead by definition, and so his suffering cannot end. Oedipus receives the worst of both worlds between life and death, and he elicits greater pity from the audience."

While Oedipus is the classic tragic hero, when we look at a character like Achilles, it is clear that there are other types of heroes that Oedipus does not compare to. The tragic hero's own tragic flaws result in their demise. This does not seem to be the case with Achilles.

In fact, in The Iliad, he is not immediately painted as a hero. There are references to his heroic nature but it is not spoon fed to the audience. His decisions do not result in death and his heroism is never spelled out. Achilles is portrayed as a man so strong and skilled in battle that he cannot be defeated. In the Iliad, he kills many Trojans, including the typical hero, Hector. However, Achilles does have a weak spot -- his heel. He was eventually shot in the heel by a poisoned arrow and this led to his demise.

While Oedipus is in many ways a typical Greek hero, there are many things about him that defy our preconceived ideas about heroism (Struck, 2002).
While Oedipus appears to have the typical hero characteristics -- he is a brave, unselfish, and honest king -- he also has a dark side and an inner rage. In addition, unlike the typical hero who comes out on top, Oedipus makes some poor decisions that result in his demise. It is true that his fate occurs because of his tragic flaw, as his judgmental and narcissistic personality ultimately destroy him.

Finally, Oedipus' demise is unlike the demise of other typical heroes, like Hercules or Odysseus, because Oedipus' story does not end with his death but rather with blindness and his expulsion from the human community. This is an ending of sorts but his life is not actually over.

Like a good tragic hero, Oedipus sparks both pity and terror in readers. He is neither wholly if he good nor wholly evil but rather a mixture of good and bad. His effect as a hero is strong because he is portrayed as a bigger and better version of the average person, so he is respected as a hero yet sympathized with as if he were a mere mortal. In the end, like most tragic heroes, he suffers a change in fortune from happiness to misery because of his tragic flaw. The audience usually sees this coming and fears for the hero. In Oedipus' case, his fate was inevitable.


Struck., Peter. (2002). Oedipus as the Ideal Tragic Hero. Classical Studies 200. Retreived from the Internet at http://www.classics.upenn.edu/myth/tragedy/oedhero.php.

Winnington-Ingram, R.P. Sophocles: An Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Wikipedia. (2005). Classical Tragic Hero. Retrieved from the Internet at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragic_hero......

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