Comparing Oedipus and Prufrock

Everyone has at least one personal flaw that somehow overcomes or defeats them in a certain place in time. In this essay, two characters of completely different fields will be put side by side to compare their own tragic flaws. On one hand, Sophocles’ Oedipus is proud, arrogant and persistent; while on the other hand, Eliot’s Prufrock is self conscious, insecure, and indecisive. While the two characters are complete polar opposites, they also share a devastating similarity: they are paranoid and in fear of their own fate. Oedipus’ personality is clearly conveyed as having excessive pride and determination throughout the play.

He first travels far from Corinth to prevent an oracle’s prediction that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He arrives in Thebes where the people were distressed over the Sphinx’s riddle. Oedipus then sets his mind on solving this riddle in which he succeeds and is awarded the throne to Thebes. This should have been a huge boost of confidence for a man who was worried he would be cursed for the rest of his life. He serves as a loyal King for his people, seeming to want to do the right thing for Thebes, but talks with such a conceited attitude.

In the play, right after receiving news that the preceding king’s killer is residing in Thebes, Oedipus states “Well, I will start afresh and once again make dark things clear. Right worthy the concern of Phoebus, worthy thine too, for the dead; I also, as is meet, will lend my aid to avenge this wrong to Thebes and to the God” (Sophocles). With both assurance and superiority in his voice, Oedipus throws it in Thebes face that he has saved them once before, and will do it again by bringing Laius’ killer to justice. He sets out on finding the person that murdered King Laius and puts all of his energy, pride, and persistence into it.

He acts as a great detective and follows each clue diligently. This helps the play revolve around the question of solving a crime (Rix). By putting together the pieces of the murder mystery, he finally begins to questions himself about his involvement in the assassination and even his own fate. Sophocles’ Oedipus pursues self-knowledge and at the same time resists it because it may connect him with his past (Morgenstern). He eventually finds out that he is indeed his father’s killer and his mother’s husband. Oedipus’ tragic flaws of hubris and determination lead him to blind himself and be exiled just as e said would happen to the murderer if he was found. Unlike Oedipus, the character in T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is timid, insecure and indecisive. Throughout the poem, Prufrock is faced with a decision to approach a woman he has developed a liking to, or remain looking out a lonely window drowning his self consciousness in an ocean of self doubt. He wants to ask her the overwhelming question, but instead he purposefully avoids the woman by having personal detour conversations with himself about his self image. The entire poem is laced with Prufrock asking himself questions.

He asks “Do I dare disturb the universe? ”(Eliot) as if the whole world will come crashing down if he simply talks to her. He wants to wait for the right time, but in the same thought, he knows his years are running out; he mentions his bald spot and thin arms. Prufrock is so consumed with himself and how others might portray or judge him, that it is paralyzing him from social activities and gatherings. He is going through a mid life crisis that he may have brought on himself by leading an unproductive, bland life and his lack of determination and will to change that life may lead him into his fear of being lonely forever.

Prufrock is essentially intimidated by women or people in general because he is ashamed of his personal appearance and monotony. One side of his personality believes in the possibility of having a relationship but the side of his self doubt and pity shackles him from living the life he is clearly screaming out for (Blythe). Towards the end of the poem, he realizes that he will never summon up the courage to talk to the person he admires. He gives up on himself and becomes aware that he has wasted his life asking himself if he should do the things he wanted to do instead of putting his plans to action.

Where Oedipus is without a doubt expeditious, stern and decisive in his promises, J. Alfred Prufrock is deficient by being obsessed with taking his time, indifferent and unable to make a simple choice even for himself. However both of these characters share a haunting similarity of fearing the realization that their lives have finally come to a particular point they have been attempting to prevent their whole life. Sometimes life presents a person with a deficiency in personality which becomes highlighted in the spotlight while trying to correct that specific trait.

In the Case of Oedipus and Prufrock, their own life flaws are over exaggerated and yet still overcorrected, in which they remain troubled with the things they hate about themselves. The two characters failed to avert a lingering curse which had been following them throughout, eventually sealing their fate with their own personal flaws. Works Cited Blithe, Hal and Sweet, Charlie. “Eliot’s THE LOVE SONG OF J. ALFRED PRUFROCK. ” The Explicator 62. 2 (2004): 108-110. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. Eliot, T. S. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter Tenth Edition. Eds. Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2010. 1015-1019. Print. Morgenstern, Naomi. “The Oedipus Complex Made Simple. ” University Of Toronto Quarterly 72. 4 (2003): 777-788. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. Rix, Robert W. “Was Oedipus Framed? ” Orbis Litterarium 54. 2 (1999): 134. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. Sophocles. Oedipus the King. The Norton Introduction to Literature: Shorter Tenth Edition. Eds. Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. New York: Norton, 2010.

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