Iliad And Oedipus The King: Impact Of Destiny On The Main Characters

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In ancient literature, prophecy, destiny, and fate play major roles in progressing storylines and developing characters. Many stories also possess these qualities today. Oedipus and Laius, characters from the story Oedipus the King, play straight into fate’s hands while trying to avoid their destiny. Laius, Oedipus, and Achilles all possessed a destiny before they were even born, these characters’ motives resulted in actions that caused conflicts that have consequences.

When Laius’s wife, Jocasta, conceived Oedipus, a blind prophet foretold of the child’s future. The child would lay with his mother and kill his father. Laius, a selfish King from Thebes, had his shepherd leave Oedipus on the Cithaeron mountains to die because he would rather his son die than himself; however, the shepherd “pitied it, and thought that I could send it off to another country (Sophocles 19)”. Laius’s motives of survival caused the chain reaction that put Oedipus on track to completing his destiny. The kingdom would never question their king, but confusion overtakes the kingdom when they realize that the new prince vanished. Laius’s actions caused more conflict rather than allowing fate to run its course would have.

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Oedipus grows up without knowing Polybus, King of Corinth, adopted him, while King Laius lives without knowing that his son still breathes. Loxias told Oedipus of the prophecy but not of his adoption; thus, Oedipus leaves Corinth in hope of keeping his family alive. The result of Oedipus trying to avoid his destiny consequently leads to the fulfillment of his prophecy. “Loxias said that I should lie with my own mother and take on my hands the blood of my own father. And so for these long years I’ve lived away from Corinth (Sophocles 15)”. Oedipus’s motives were pure, and he only wanted to save his family from a terrible ending, but somehow fate always finds a way to succeed. Oedipus shows that even pure motives result in actions that have consequences or at least repercussions.

In the Iliad, the gods intervene and stall fate for years, but in the end every character’s destiny prevails. Achilles destiny involves either dying in battle or dying by disease. Thetis, Achilles’s mother, said “My child, your own death will swiftly be upon you if Hector dies, for your own doom must inexorably follow (Homer 17)”. Similar to Laius and Oedipus, Achilles tries to avoid fate only to fail and die in battle. Achilles only wants to avenge his best friend, Patroclus, and accepts later accepts his destiny of death in order to carry out his revenge. Achilles actions result in his death and other people’s suffering like Laius. Unlike Laius, Achilles shows the readers that everyone should get to choose the path they take and not have others choose for them.

Prophecy, destiny, and fate prevailed in both the Iliad and Oedipus the King. No matter how hard characters try to avoid their destiny, the end of the story always ends up how it should have. Obstacles could not stop fate and neither could Laius, Oedipus, or Achilles. These characters actions resulted in consequences that not only hurt themselves but hurt others too.  


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