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The Odyssey, Oedipus the King and the Human Condition
It's in literature that true life can be found. It's under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth. Gao Xingjian
World literature has witnessed the tremendous influence of the ancient Greek literature on human condition. The Odyssey, Homer’s immortal epic, and Oedipus the King, Sophocles’ splendid tragedy, are outstanding examples exhibiting the long insights of ancient Greeks about human life and beliefs based on their culture, knowledge and wisdom of the time. On the one hand, the Odyssey is a story of a lost hero’s journey of returning home and retrieving his identity. On the other hand, Oedipus the King is a tragedy of a man who struggles to escape the fated destiny but finally falls into the consequences foreseen in the prophecy. Although they take different or far-flung plots to unfold their stories, they both actually are rooted in Causality, which is the notion that consequences are related to behaviors. Therefore, comparing between the Odyssey and Oedipus the King, there are similarities along with differences in the core meaning of the works.
Just as Jeffery Gitomer has said, “Great people have great values and great ethics.” Distinguished characteristics in Oedipus and Odysseus do reflect similar insights of these two works. The first one is hubris, which is arrogance and overwhelming self-confidence of humanity. In the episode The Cyclops, after a complacent and brilliant idea to save Odysseus and sailors out of the cave, Odysseus’ arrogant words to Cyclops cause him the incoming misfortune of his journey returning home. “Cyclops, if anyone ever asks you how you came by your blindness, tell him your eye was put out by Odysseus, sacker of cities, the son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca (Homer 123).” What’s more, “I only wish I could make as sure of robbing you of life and breath and sending you to Hell, as I am certain that not even the Earthshaker will ever heal your eye (Homer 123).” At the moment, Odysseus is so complacent of his victory over Cyclops, a noble demigod, without thinking about any consequences of shaming a noble demigod and an immortal God so badly. Of course, the savage behavior brings the anger of Poseidon to Odysseus, which makes his journey ten times more difficult as it could be. The same situation happens to Oedipus, the big hero who solved out Sphinx’s mystery. When acquiring the information that expelling the murderer of Laius could subdue the pestilence in the city, Oedipus said “I am the land’s avenger by all rights, and Apollo’s champion too. But not to assist some distant kinsman, no, for my own sake I’ll rid us of this corruption. Whoever killed the king may decide to kill me too, with the same violent handby avenging Laius I defend myself...