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The Downfall Of The Hero In Oedipus Rex By Sophocles [Essay]

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In literature, it is very common that the hero faces victory or defeat. In Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles, Oedipus experiences defeat due to a tragic flaw and not his fate. The fate he was worried he would fulfill, being the murderer of his father and husband of his mother. The prophecy ended up being fulfilled either way but that was not the reason for his downfall. His downfall was due to the pride and self-confidence he had. His pride was what made him blind to see the truth and reality he was living in causing him to end up blind and exiled from the place he was born.

Oedipus’ downfall arises from the moment he decided he would leave the city, Corinth, were where he grew up with his adoptive parents. Not knowing, that when he chose to leave and go against the gods to prove that he would not live the life he was doomed for. He would walk directly into his downfall. His pride and arrogance led him straight to where he would not knowingly, murder his father. He later realized what he had done when he has to uncover the truth of who he is. He declares that he is the killer when he confesses to his wife and tells her, “Watching as I was passing, from the car with his goad’s fork smote me upon the head. He paid, though! duly say not; but in brief, smitten by the staff in his right hand of mine, out of the middle of the carriage straight he rolls down headlong; and I slay them all”(Sophocles pg.29). It was the fate that Apollo had set for him but because of his pride, he satisfied the prophecy that could've been avoided if only he had stayed in Corinth. But to expose this truth he had to save the city, Thebes, from a plague that was created by the murderer of Laius.

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His downfall continues when his pride led him to go against Creon and believing that both Creon and the prophet were plotting against him. He accused Creon of telling the prophet to accuse him of being the murderer of his father, he believed that Creon wanted to become king. “Is it not folly, this attempt of yours, without a following, without friends, to hunt after a throne, a thing which is achieved by the aid of followers and much revenue” (Sophocles pg.20). Because of his pride, Oedipus fails to see that a man, whom the people of Thebes consider to be trustworthy, is innocent and is telling nothing but the truth. Still, he refused to believe him and wanted him dead for suspicion that he would take his place. His pride went as far as to believe it was not only Creon that wanted him gone. When he blamed the senator for wanting him gone as well, “Now, understand it well; seek this, you seek my death or exile!” (Sophocles pg.24). Because of Oedipus’ pride, he was not capable to trust and understand that the people wanted to reveal the truth and save their city from the plague. He proceeded to be prideful and demanded his questions to be answered. Not knowing that what he was looking for was not at all what he desired to discover, for this would further add to his downfall.


Once again Oedipus lets his pride get the best of him when he demanded that the prophet, Creon delivered to him, tell him all he knows. For this reason, he brought his downfall to himself, by cursing the person who killed the previous king, Laius, to not be accepted by anyone “Whoever he be, I order that this land, whose power and throne are mine, none entertain him, none accost him, none cause him to share prayers or sacrifice offered to heaven, or pour him a lustral wave, but all men from their homes banish him.”

Frequently Asked Questions

How Did Oedipus' Pride Lead to His Downfall?

Oedipus’ pride led to his downfall because he refused to listen to anyone else’s advice or warnings, even from the gods, and instead relied on his own judgement and decisions. His pride prevented him from accepting the truth about his past and resulted in his exile from Thebes and his own personal suffering. In his attempt to protect himself and his city, Oedipus ultimately failed and brought about his own destruction.

Who is Responsible for Oedipus' Downfall?

Oedipus is ultimately responsible for his own downfall. He was warned by the Oracle of Delphi that he would kill his father and marry his mother, but instead of avoiding the prophecy, he took matters into his own hands and tried to outrun his fate. He ended up unknowingly fulfilling the prophecy, which ultimately led to his downfall.

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