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Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King

Oedipus as Scapegoat in Oedipus the King

The great psychologist-philosopher Carl Jung was briefly a student of Freud. Because Jung felt that Freud’s approach to psychoanalysis was by far too narrow, he broke off from his teachings, and made significant contributions to mythological criticism. Jung’s greatest contribution was his theory of archetypes. His proposal of archetypes argues that there is one original pattern or model of all things of the same type. According to Jung, beneath the personal unconscious is a collective unconscious that is in the psychic inheritance of all humans. Jung thought of the collective unconscious as a sort of memory bank that stores images and ideas that humans have accumulated over the course of evolution. This theory of Jung’s supported other theories that argues that humans are born with instincts. “Mind is not born as a tabula rasa [a clean slate]. Like the body, it has its pre-established individual definiteness; namely, forms of behaviour. They become manifest in the ever-recurring patterns of psychic functioning” (Guerin 175). It is important to realize that archetypes are not inherited ideas or patterns of thought, but rather that they are inclinations to respond in similar ways to certain stimuli (Guerin 175-178). One predominant archetype within mythological criticism is the sacrificial scapegoat. In Sophocles’ play Oedipus Tyrannus, the archetype of the sacrificial scapegoat is carried out by Oedipus as he solves the impossible riddle of the sphinx, delivers Thebes from a horrible plague, and then takes his mother’s hand in marriage.

As portrayed within Oedipus Tyrannus, the sacrificial scapegoat is “representative of the divinity whose death is preordained as an elabor…

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…in of Laius in order to deliver the city from its horrible plague. Through his quest Oedipus arrives at his self-discovery, revealing aspects about himself that had never crossed his mind. It is here that Oedipus has to confront and learn to accept the truths about his infancy, the killing of his father, and his marriage to his mother, although these truths are terrifying to face. In the end Oedipus scratches out his eyes, and then leaves the city of Thebes to wander aimlessly until his death.

Work Cited

Brunel, Pierre. Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes and Archetypes. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Guerin, Wilford L. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1979.

Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. New York: Norton, 1970.

Vickery, John B. Myths and Texts. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1983.

Marxist Theory and Oedipus the King

Marxist Theory and Oedipus the King

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx and Engels 2). This excerpt, taken from Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto, explains the two primary classes found throughout most of Europe during the era of the Industrial Revolution. These classes were the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The former were known as the “exploiters” and the latter as the “exploited”.

The wealth, power, and prestige of the bourgeoisie, acquired mostly from their control of institutions, industries, and means of production, enabled them to force upon the proletariat their economic, political, and religious ideologies. These are the same ideologies “used to maintain certain social relations” (Eagleton 466). These very ideologies are what “make the masses loyal to the very institutions that are the source of their exploitation” (Tischler 16). Once the proletariat ceases to believe in or abide by those ideologies, revolt is inevitable, and the moment it occurs, so does the destruction or alteration of a single controlling and tyrannical power altogether. Thus, it can be said that “the bourgeoisie reign is doomed when economic conditions are ripe and when a working class united by solidarity, aware of its common interests and energized by an appropriate system of ideas, confronts its disunited antagonists” (Rideneir).

If the text of the play Oedipus the King by Sophocles is analyzed using this historical form of Marxist criticism, which is context-oriented, the perpetual class struggles within this society at Thebes is revealed.

Upon reading the play, there is an apparent class structure found throughout. In Oedipus Tyrannus, two mai…

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…s own fate. Among class struggles, the lower class will in some way, rise to defeat their rulers. It is inevitable.

Sources Cited

Fish, Thomas E. Critical Summary of “Literature and History.” Marxism and Literary Criticism. U of California P, 1976. 1-19. Rpt. in Contexts for Criticism. Ed. Donald Keesey. 3rd ed. 25 Oct. 2000

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Trans. Paul M. Sweeny. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998.

Rideneir. “The Sociology of Knowledge.” Marxist Theory of Class Struggles.1 Nov. 2000

Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus. Norton Critical ed. Trans. Luci Berkowitz and Theodore F. Brunner. New York: Norton, 1970.

Tischler, Henry L. Introduction to Sociology. 6th ed. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, 1999.

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