Free Will and Fate in Sartres No Exit and Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus - Essay Example

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The plays Oedipus Tyrannus and No Exit represent the opposite perspectives on how fate and free will affect the human life. Oedipus Tyrannus shows that fate is the factor behind events in a man's life and a man's destiny is determined before he is even born…
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Free Will and Fate in Sartres No Exit and Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus
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Download file to see previous pages Although they conceded that man had the power to choose and make decisions for himself, they felt that these decisions inevitably ended up playing into the hands of fate. This can be seen clearly in Oedipus Tyrannus.
Oedipus learns from the Oracle that it is his fate to murder his biological father and sleep with own mother. Upon learning of his fate, Oedipus flees from the land of his youth in an attempt to escape his fate. After he becomes king, Oedipus seeks to learn the truth behind the murder of his father which caused the land of Thebes to be cursed. He summons the blind prophet Teiresias who hints at the truth which eerily echoes the oracle's prediction:
Even though Oedipus tried to escape his fate by attempting to flee, his destiny overrides his free will as he ignorantly winds up fulfilling the oracle's prophecies of patricide and incest. In this play, fate is seen as the master of man's destiny and it shows how man is virtually helpless when it comes to living out his preordained destiny.
By contrast, Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit has the major underlying theme of existentialism; that is that man and man alone controls his destiny. Existentialism is the belief that there is no God or fate and therefore man is in charge of his own destiny. Basically, the past is past and has no bearing on today, what is here and now is the reality. Man has the free will to choose to be free or he can be imprisoned by letting other people choose his destiny for him. Also by allowing himself to become imprisoned by the past, man is condemning himself to a life that can't be lived.
Of the three main characters in No Exit, two are doomed to an eternity in Hell because of their failure to take responsibility for their actions which got them there in the first place. Besides blaming others for her problems, Estelle even blames her death on fate, "then two years ago I met the man I was fated to love. We knew it the moment we set eyes on each other. He asked me to run away with him, and I refused. Then I got pneumonia and it finished me." Estelle is saying that because she denied her destiny, her punishment was death. In life and in death, Estelle allows others to create her self image rather than take responsibility for her own life, this can be seen when she asks the others repeatedly how she looks and through the use of Inez as her mirror, she shows how she is still letting other people determine who she is. Estelle and Garcin both refuse to give up the past, as they go over and over the events that brought them to Hell. Their inability to live in the present, in effect condemns them to Hell.
In Hell as on earth, Garcin continues to leave his existence in the hands of other people. Garcin let other people decide who he was on earth, at one point even declaring, "I've left my fate in their hands." In Hell, he allows Estelle to determine who he really is by allowing her to define if he is a coward. Garcin's inability to leave Hell even when the door is open shows how he lets his fear of being responsible limit his choices and eventually condemns himself. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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