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The Effects of Parents’ Sins upon their Children: A Comparison between Oedipus the King and Ghosts

Uploaded by trillianmcmillan on Jul 30, 2002

Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King was written for a Greek audience as a religious right and lesson around two thousand years ago, while Ibsen’s play Ghosts was written as a criticism of the Norwegian society during the 1890’s. Although these plays were written for under different circumstances, and not for the same purpose, there is a universal theme connecting them: man’s liability to sin. One of the more specific themes of both plays is the negative effect that parents’ sins have upon subsequent generations.

In Oedipus the King, Oedipus is born the son of Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes. After he is born, Apollo prophesizes that Oedipus will kill his father and sleep with his mother. Due to this prophecy, Laius and Jocasta devised a plan to leave Oedipus in the woods to pass away, as he had now become a danger and an unwanted child. In this case, the parents’ sin was attempting to defy the gods by trying to evade Apollo’s prophecy. Later, Jocasta states that “no skill in the world, nothing human, can penetrate the future” (Sophocles 201), and Oedipus echoes her doubt in prophets by saying, “…all those prophecies I feared – Polybus packs them off to sleep with him in hell! They’re nothing, worthless” (Sophocles 214). These lines lay their sin of doubting the foundations of their religion in clear view. Ghosts also reveals that parents’ sins can have a negative effect on their children as the child’s life progresses. This is displayed by the fact that Regine is the result of an affair between Captain Alving and the housemaid, Johanna. Being a child born out of wedlock, Regine is unwanted by Captain Alving because she is proof of his sin, and if anyone were to discover her true origins it could destroy the respect that society has for him. Regine is also unwanted by Mrs. Alving since she is a constant reminder, and the only inextinguishable proof of Captain Alving’s debauchery. If she did not exist it would be easier for Mrs. Alving to hide her husband’s secret, just as if Oedipus had died when Laius and Jocasta had left him in the woods, a plague proving his family debauched would not have been placed upon his people.

Other sins that the parents in both plays commit include hiding the true origins of their children. For example, Oedipus’ origins are hidden from him...

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Uploaded by:   trillianmcmillan

Date:   07/30/2002

Category:   Literature

Length:   6 pages (1,442 words)

Views:   2921

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