In the play Oedipus the King, Sophocles uses various images to develop the narrative or highlight the inner world of the characters. This paper is aimed at discussing such a symbol as the cross-roads which plays an important role in this tragedy. To a great extent, it denotes the moment when Oedipus began to fulfill the prophecy, even though he was not willing to do it. This image can be regarded as a crucial turning point in the life of a person. One can say that the significance of this symbol manifests itself when the protagonist understands that he could indeed be the murderer of his father. These are the main questions that should be discussed.
When the image is first mentioned, it can be viewed as a mere location where a certain action takes place. In particular, Jocasta says that Laius was killed “at the crossing of three roads” (Sophocles 60). Oedipus does not attach much important to this fact because it does not occur to him that he could be responsible for Laius’ death. Nevertheless, this role of this image becomes more important when the main character learns more about the death of the former king. He discovers that Laius was not killed by a band of robbers.
Moreover, the protagonist understands that the men he killed in the past could indeed be the former king of Thebes. So, the meaning of this symbol is changed. The cross-roads can be viewed as the defining moment when the main character began to fulfill the prophecy of the oracle. This is the thing that he dreads most. This image can be regarded as the main turning point in Oedipus’s life.
One can say that the meaning of this symbol has specific cultural associations. It usually denotes an important decision or choice that a person can take. However, it should be mentioned that the crossroads could be by ancient Greeks as a place where sacrifices were made (Becker 75). Therefore, this image has been chosen by Sophocles because it is useful for describing the role of deities in the life of Oedipus. In this case, deities can be viewed as some overwhelming forces that drive Oedipus’ actions. This is another issue that should not be overlooked.
This symbol is related to such themes as fate, free will, and the limitations of knowledge. Furthermore, in this way, the author wants to highlight the inability of a person to predict every consequence of his/her action (Ramphos 82). For instance, Oedipus recalls his encounter with a stranger who he killed. He is unwilling to admit the idea that he could be the cause of Laius’ death. So, this image can throw light on the meaning of the entire play. In this way, the author emphasizes the idea that the protagonist failed to identify the action that led to his ruin. This is one of the aspects that can be identified.
On the whole, this discussion suggests that Sophocles skillfully employs symbols which can illuminate the meaning of the narrative. The author relies on such an image as the cross-roads to describe the point in time when Oedipus unwillingly completed a part of the prophecy. Moreover, this symbol is used by the author to show that the protagonist actions can be driven by some overwhelming force.
Becker, Udo. The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols, New York: Continuum, 2000. Print.
Ramphos, S. Fate and Ambiguity in Oedipus the King, New York: Somerset Hall Press, 2005. Print.
Sophocles. King Oedipus, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Print.