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What Is the Point of View of "Oedipus the King?"


"Oedipus the King," Sophocles’ most famous play and one of literature’s great tragedies, dramatizes Oedipus’ gradual discovery of a horrible truth -- he has fulfilled the prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Playing upon themes of sight and blindness, the point of view, or perspective, shifts from character to character, revealing how humans can be blind to reality despite intellect and insight. Ancient Greek audiences were familiar with the story of Oedipus and knew that Oedipus himself is the reason a pestilence has fallen upon Thebes. The drama unfolds as this knowledge dawns on each character.

Multiple Perspectives Propel the Story
In Oedipus the King, the audience knows the truth, while many of the characters do not.

The point of view best fitting dramatic works, third-person dramatic/objective, has an observer as a fly on the wall, in the form of a narrator or audience, while the thoughts and feelings of the characters are revealed through dialogue or action. As the characters converse, tension grows out of their differing perspectives. Oedipus pledges to find Lauis’ murderer, not knowing he is looking for himself; thus, his pursuit of truth initially keeps him from unveiling it. The blind prophet Teiresias ironically can see the truth, naming Oedipus as killer, yet Oedipus refuses to believe him. The chorus interprets what the characters say and do, in league with the audience, yet are confused like Oedipus. His wife and mother Jocasta, puts the pieces together faster than he does, with tragic results. The ill-fated hero is last to see that he has enacted the prophecy of his birth.

About the Author

A resident of Vermont, Kyle Cushman has been an educator for more than 17 years and has written education articles for the Learning Center Newsletter, The Master Teacher and Education Update. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an Master of Arts in writing from the University of New Hampshire.

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