Oedipus the King through the Gender Theory
A lens paper describes the contents of a subject through a different and more informed perspective or vantage point. A lens paper based on a gender theory seeks to explore the place of women and men in a certain subject and how their needs are expressed. It also explores how their influence is felt and how they are treated. This essay will present a gender theory on the text Oedipus, the King. Oedipus the King is a play based on Greek mythology that explains the inescapability of fate and destiny.
The essay will explore the role of women and men in the text and their contributions to the certainty of Oedipus’ fate. The essay will further describe the various differences that can be seen through the gender lens theory and how these differences conspire to make the mythology or the play complete. The essay will seek to identify issues that would have been missed when interpreting the play without the lens of gender theory. The essay will analyze the different characters in the play and determine their roles as presented through the lenses of gender.
The first character in the play is King Laius, the former king of Thebes, married to Queen Jocasta and the biological father of Oedipus. King Laius is a strong king, one who would do anything to hold on to power and preserve his life. He is the first one to be informed of the unfortunate prophesies that he would be killed by his son. As the King of the Land, and as a man who needs power and influence, he cannot allow this to happen and decides to kill his son at a very young age (Greene, 11). He made this decision in order to preserve his life and the continuance of his legacy. Little did he know that the effort to preserve his life would lead to his death and the end of his legacy. These events provide in-depth understanding of the men who are in power. Such individuals would go to any lengths to preserve their status quo.
When taking a look at the circumstances surrounding his death, it is discovered that it all comes down to a question of who would have the right of way, either him or his son Oedipus. The conflict was unnecessary as it was based on a trivial and petty matter. However, it is unfortunate that King Laius lost his life over such a small and easily avoidable issue. That provides us with an insight into the ego and pride of men. Taking a gender theory approach, men would be said to have an insatiable ego that needs to be occasionally caressed. Things would have been utterly different if they sorted out their differences in other, nonviolent ways. His death is depicted as an unlucky one and as a result of a coincidence. The death of King Laius many be seen as a form of retribution as he died in the hands of a man that he had supposedly killed.
The second character to be examined is Jocasta, widow of King Laius, who died as a biological mother and a wife to Oedipus. The play portrays Jocasta as a resilient and merciful woman. She is resilient as she is able to handle the various events that happen in her life until they are too much to bear. She is forced to see her young son Oedipus die by the orders of her husband; she does this with a heavy heart (Greene, 15). Secondly, she has to deal with the loss of her husband King Laius, who is murdered by her son after a quarrel over the right of way. She takes the death of the husband and assumes ruling position of the kingdom of Thebes.
Thirdly, she is handed over to marry a much older man who takes the position previously considered by her husband. The resilience she exhibits is remarkable; the author uses this character to tell about the resilient nature of women and how they are able to withstand so much suffering and anguish. The gender theory, in this case, illustrates how women in the society are placed under control and command of men. It is a man who decides whether Jocasta’s child shall live or not and it is a man who decides whom she shall marry after her husband’s death.
Jocasta is also presented as a merciful woman; this is evident after she receives instructions from her husband to kill her son Oedipus. She is unable to bring herself to do the act and has Oedipus tied up and abandoned in the forest. That is an act of mercy considering her position at that time; she was merciful enough to leave the fate of her son in the hands of the gods and not decide it on her own. According to the play, it is her role as a woman to be submissive, obedient and merciful.
The third character to be examined under the gender theory lens is Oedipus. He is powerful, he is wise and he wants to be a great king. Oedipus, however, has found himself in a tight position; he has discovered that he had killed his own father and had married his mother (Greene, 4). A prophecy that he had heard as a young man and had done his best to evade it. It is unfortunate that by the time he finds out, it is too late, and there is nothing that he can do about it. His torment is exaggerated when he realizes that his mother and wife had killed herself because she was overcome with grief and guilt. In desperation, Oedipus blinds himself with his mother’s rings as he finds ways to punish himself (Greene, 20). It is at this stage that gender theory becomes relevant. Oedipus is suffering and is in no position to take care of him; it is up to his children Polyneicies, Eteokles and Antigone to take care of him.
The male children, on whom this responsibility should naturally fall to are nowhere to be found. They spend their time in the house engaging in illogical and unhelpful arguments. Their female siblings, on the other hand, are busy taking care of the family problems showing the characters of leadership. These qualities have been traditionally ascribed to men, and the play reverses these roles to be associated with women.
The above discussion illustrates the reversal of roles between men and women in the play Oedipus the King. The play seeks to dispute previously held stereotypes associated with gender and demonstrates that all genders have the freedom of choice as to the roles they would like to play in the society. The King Laius has been described as a petty, jealous and greedy individual, a role that would not correspond to a traditional role of a man in a male-dominated the world. Jocasta has been portrayed as wise, resilient and robust ruler, a position that goes against the commonly held stereotypes about women’s roles in the society. The reversal of gender roles is best illustrated among Oedipus’ children whereby the female children assume leadership, control and influence in family matters while the male children play no role in this. The gender theory allows the readers to identify the principles of freedom and choice that are associated with the gender roles in the play Oedipus the King.