Theme of Fate in 'Oedipus the King': Critical Analysis

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The “The Tale of Sohrab” and “Oedipus Tyrannus” are two distinct stories that showcase the timelessness of the Shahmaneh. The two stories are not only entertaining but also reflect on various themes that are relevant to the social structure of society and can also apply to the individual lives of people. Upon reading the tales, one can see the undeniable similarities between the stories. This essay makes a comparison between the two tales, with a focus on the themes that are evident from the respective texts.

“The Tale of Sohrab” and “Oedipus Tyrannus” are characterized by the theme of fate, as is evident through the characters in the tales. First, Sohrab and Rostam are both mighty and wealthy warriors whose interactions and associations are destined to end in a tragic experience. As the story progresses, one comes to the realization that despite knowing that Rostam is his father, Sohrab chooses to remain silent to the point of his death. Ultimately his fate and that of his father are intertwined in the way the two are father and son yet meet in combat to fight each other during battle. Similarly, the character Oedipus is burdened by his fate, which was prophesied by a seer.

“It was my fate to defile my mother’s bed, to bring forth to men a human family that people could not bear to look upon, to murder the father who engendered me.” (Zimmern, 590)

Oedipus is thus constrained to a tragic fate where he killed his father and married his mother without his knowledge. Similarly, Jocasta’s life in the text is predetermined by her fate, as the gods authored it. She tries to escape her fate by giving away her child to prevent the tragic prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. She is, however, constrained by her written destiny and ends up marrying her son Oedipus, who unknowingly killed his father. The fate of the characters mentioned above is thus a dominant theme in both texts as all the characters could not escape these written destinies.

Secondly, the secret is a common theme in both readings, consequently influencing the characters’ choices in the story. For instance, in “Oedipus Tyrannus,” the character of Jocasta keeps the secret of Oedipus’ true origins after learning that he was her son. She chooses to withhold the tragic discovery willfully and even tries to prevent Oedipus from asking questions regarding his parents.


Yet humor me, I pray thee; do not this.”

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I cannot; I must probe this matter home.” (Storr, 1280)

Similarly, the character of Sohrab kept the secret that he suspected Rostam was his father. Despite having suspicions, Sohrab chose to remain silent and faced Rostam in the duel to death. While it is objective to conclude otherwise, it is likely that the story would be different, if Sohrab instead chose to disclose his suspicions. In both tales, characters kept secrets that are very relevant to other characters’ and thus highly impacted the plot and ultimately led to tragedy for the protagonists respectively.

Furthermore, both tales highlight the theme of revelation. This is seen in the way tragic truths are revealed to the protagonists alongside other characters in the readings. For instance, the truth about Oedipus’ parents and the prophecy, was revealed towards the end of the story. While Oedipus knew about the prophecy, he did not know that the things which were foretold by the gods had already taken place. Evidently, the truth was finally revealed, and this consequently led to Oedipus’ tragic end. Another revelation in the tale of Oedipus also occurs when Oedipus learns that the man, he killed at the crossroads was Laius, his father. Although he knew that he had committed a murder, he did not know that the man he killed was his father until then. This shocking revelation highly impacted his decision, consequently leading to his tragic end. Similarly, in “The Tale of Sohrab”, Sohrab revealed to Rostam that he was his son.

“For my father is Rostam the Pehliva, and it shall be told unto him how that Sohrab his son perished in the quest after his face.' (Zimmern, 3, 195)

The latter is a shocking revelation that ultimately exposed Rostam to the painful reality that he had just killed his son, causing him to groan in pain and experience intense grief.

“When Rostam heard these words, his sword fell from out of his grasp, and he was shaken with dismay. And there broke from his heart a groan as of one whose heart was racked with anguish.” (Zimmern, 3, 197).

In conclusion, “The Tale of Sohrab” and Oedipus Tyrannus are more alike with regard to themes found in the two distinct stories. This is seen in the way both stories showcase the themes of fate, secrets, and revelation. These themes are also very dominant in the texts as they influence the choices made by characters in the two stories. Additionally, the context of tragedy aligns with the themes mentioned above, given that the fate of characters, their secrets, as well the revelation of hidden truths to them ultimately leads to tragedy.

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