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Ensnared by the Gods in Oedipus Rex

Ensnared by the Gods in Oedipus Rex

A citizen of Periclean Athens may not have been familiar with the term entrapment, but he or she would surely have recognized the case of Oedipus as such. The tragedy of Oedipus is that he was ensnared by the gods. As Teiresias points out, “I say that with those you love best you live in foulest shame unconsciouslyÖ” (italics mine) God is continuously indicted for having caused Oedipusí troubles. The chorus asks, “What evil spirit leaped upon your life to your ill-luckÖ?” And Oedipus himself is well aware of the source of his troubles: “It was Apollo, friends, Apollo, that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion.” Blinded and humiliated, Oedipus thanks Creon for bringing his daughters to him: “God bless you for it, Creon, and may God guard you better on your road than he did me!”

The Athenian audience probably did not obsess with the unfairness of it all. Since the audience would have been well aware of the story and its details, the draw, and the entertainment would have been seeing the storyís lessons portrayed in a way that emphasized human failings, particularly the illusions that we hold concerning our mastery of affairs. Oedipus himself is described as “masterful,” yet watching his story, which we know so well, we find it dripping with irony at the kingís every proud utterance. In his argument with Teiresias, Oedipus accuses the seer of being “blind in mind and ears as well as in your eyes.” Teiresias responds that Oedipus is but a “Öpoor wretch to taunt me with the very insults which every one soon will heap upon yourself.”

Oedipus is indeed convinced of his own virtue, and why not? As the play opens, the priest lavishes praise upon the k…

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…ce of men reverence at least the flame that gives all life, our Lord the Sun, and do not show unveiled to him pollution such that neither land nor holy rain nor light of day can welcome.”

Oedipus, at the last, seems to concur in this acceptance of Godís will. When the Chorus suggests he “would be better dead than blind and living,” Oedipus replies, “Öitís unfit to say what is unfit to do. I beg of you in Godís name hide me somewhere outside your country, yes, or kill me, or throw me into the seaÖ” In other words, Godís will be done. Whatever our mortal designs, we are caught in a far greater design, or web, which can grab us and pull us down at any time. As the play concludes, “Count no mortal happy till he has passed the final limit of his life secure from pain.” Or, as a modern ballplayer put it, “Donít look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

Comparing the Role of Social Class in The Necklace and Recitatif

The Role of Social Class in The Necklace and Recitatif

Often in a piece of literature, a story will appear to be about one issue when, in actuality, the author intended it to be about another. In the short stories “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant and “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison, the issues of class separation and struggle, though they may appear at first glance to be unimportant, are in fact the central points around which these two stories revolve.

In “The Necklace” and “Recitatif,” class differences affect the ways in which the characters interact with one another. Nowhere in the story “Recitatif” is this more apparent than in the meeting between Roberta and Twyla’s mothers at the orphanage. Twyla describes Roberta’s mother as tall, prim, and proper. She adds, “on her chest was the biggest cross I’d ever seen…” (page 213). In direct contrast to this is the image of Twyla’s mother, a woman who wears revealing pants and a ragged old jacket and curses in church. Roberta’s mother clearly looks down upon Twyla’s because she is of a lower class, as illustrated by her refusal to shake her hand. In “The Necklace,” class differences between Mathilde and Mme. Forestier put an obvious restriction upon their relationship. By the end of the story, Mathilde becomes a member of the lower class – “the woman of impoverished households – strong and hard and rough…” (page 71). When the two ladies meet again in the last lines of the story, Mme. Forestier is “astonished to be addressed by this plain goodwife” (page 72). In a parallel event from “Recitatif,” Roberta looks down upon Twyla when they meet in a Howard Johnson’s. She sees Twyla in her “blue-and-white triangle” uniform, “[her] hair shapeless in a net,” and “[her] ankle…

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… between the characters play the central role in the action of the story. These differences affect the ways in which these characters interact, they create the conflict in the story, and they affect the way the reader feels about and reacts to each of the characters. In making the issue of social class the focus of these two works, the authors successfully communicate to the readers their belief that, no matter how hard we might try to avoid it, class is indeed a major factor in today’s society.

Works Cited

de Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Understanding Fiction . third ed. Eds. Cleanth Brooks and

Robeert Penn Warren. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 66-72.

Morrison, Toni. “Recitatif.” New Worlds of Literature: Writings from America’s Many Cultures.

second ed. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 1994. 209-225.

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