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The stories we’re reading tend to center on “morality,” or stories that should teach people correct moral behavior. Give three specific examples of morality tales WITHIN the works we’ve read this so far this summer, and then link the “moral” of the story to the social behavior it is trying to correct.
Please make sure no plagiarism and finish on time. Thank you so much.
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OK, first let me say that your mini-essays last week were unanimously and uniformly excellent. You are a smart and hard-working roster of students, and you should take a moment to recognize your incredible discipline.
So Oedipus the King (or Oedipus Rex) by Sophocles: The play’s central theme is that intelligence makes us overconfidence. As such, Oedipus is a symbol of human overconfidence, a symbol of our belief that intelligence makes us masters of our world. Consider that Oedipus is a man of action and experience, but he himself emphasizes that his action is based on thoughtful analysis. He boasts that he alone was able to answer the riddle of the Sphinx.
“The flight of my own intelligence hit the mark,” he says at one point. Here he prizes his own human intelligence above the prophetic skills of Tiresias, skills that are a gift of the gods. Oedipus’ intelligence is displayed in the frequent cross-questioning to which he subjects witnesses in the course of his investigation that starts as a search for the murderer of Laius and ends as a search for his own identity.
Oedipus’ questioning of Creon, Jocasta, the messenger and the shepherd are models of logical pursuit of the truth. And it is through these intellectual efforts that he finally brings about a catastrophe when he learns the truth about himself.
What is the truth? That Oedipus has killed his father Laius and married his mother Jocasta.
How did this happen? Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta in the city of Thebes. But the birth of Oedipus was shadowed by a prophecy that he would go on to kill his father and marry his mother. Frightened by this, Laius and Jocasta make the hard decision to have a servant take the baby to the top of a Mount Cithaeron to die. The baby’s heels were pierced to expedite his death, which is how Oedipus garnered his name. Oedipus means “swollen feet.” (Edema is the medical term for swelling.) But the servant can’t go through with it and hands the baby off to a shepherd, who in turn passes it along to the king and queen, Polybius and Merope, of neighboring kingdom Corinth. Because they have difficulty conceiving a child, Polybus and Merope adopt Oedipus as their own child, never telling him he isn’t their biological son.
The prophecy follows Oedipus to Corinth. As a young man, he makes a decision to abandon Corinth to keep from fulfilling his ugly destiny He heads unknowingly toward his birth city, Thebes.
En route to Thebes, he encounters a man and his servants at a crossroads. There is an argument over right of way, and then a horrible road-rage confrontation. (Oedipus’ flaw is that, despite his skills of rational deduction, he possesses a temper.) Oedipus ends up killing the older man and most of his servants, save one, who runs away. Oedipus doesn’t know it yet, but he has slain his father, Laius, who had left Thebes in order to solve the dilemma of the Sphinx. The Sphinx is a giant creature with the head of a woman, the wings of a bird, and the haunches of a lion. The Sphinx was guarding the gates of Thebes and to have asked a riddle of visitors. If they answered incorrectly, the Sphinx killed them. Oedipus is clever, though, and solves the riddle, causing the Sphinx to magically disappear.
Oedipus has saved Thebes! Since their king is missing in action, the people decide to install Oedipus as their ruler. And the job even comes with a queen, namely Jocasta, Oedipus’ birth mother.
Soon after, though, Thebes is riddled with plague from the god Apollo, decimating the citizens. They can’t figure out why Apollo is angry. King Oedipus dispatches his brother-in-law Creon (who is actually Oedipus’ uncle) to question the oracle of Apollo in the city of Delphi. This is how the play opens, with Creon’s arrival with news from the oracle. The murderer of Laius must be identified and banished for the plague to be lifted. Oedipus dons his investigative cap and gets to work.
A few point to consider for your essay this week:
Oedipus the King is, it can be argued, is the world’s first murder-mystery, and it is one in which the detective discovers he himself is the killer. Oedipus’ compassion for his people softens his faults. The depths of Oedipus’ response—his suffering and self-punishment—at the moment of full recognition make him sympathetic. Oedipus the King speaks to the limits, and the folly, of human agency and knowledge, and suggests that human beings have no choice but to act, even in blindness, and to continue the quest for self-awareness no matter the outcome.
Though he has committed them unintentionally, Oedipus takes responsibility for his crimes, blinds himself, and goes into exile. Oedipus the King invokes fear because we identify with Oedipus’ lack of self-knowledge and recognize our inability to fully determine the consequences of our actions. The play also invokes pity, as the audience sympathizes with someone who undeservedly suffers misfortune. Although Oedipus is not without faults—the tragic hero must have some faults, according to Aristotle, in order for the audience to identify with and pity him or her—there are also cosmic and divine forces at work in his life that complicate the matter of his personal responsibility. King Oedipus, who suffers along with his people and serves them well by seeking in good faith to root out the cause of the plague that besets their and his city, eventually learns that he has unwittingly committed the crimes for which they are being punished.
According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, a great tragedy concentrates on a single dramatic conflict, a noble action that unfolds in the course of a single day. The purpose of the tragedy is to arouse both pity and terror in the audience in order to effect what he calls catharsis. Catharsis is the purgation of emotions and a clarification of the mind that leads to a degree of equanimity, a lightening of the soul.
To arouse pity and fear in the onlooker, a tragedy should depict the fall of a person of noble character and good fortune who unwittingly commits a grave error (hamartia) resulting from a tragic character flaw to which he or she is blind.
As in the case of Oedipus the King, it is important that the audience understand this reversal of fortune to be undeserved, resulting not from vice and depravity in the part if the hero but rather from some unintentional miscalculation.