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The Great Encounter - Oedipus the King

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Before I even started reading Oedipus the King, my views regarding the translation of foreign literature were greatly shifted. The grace with which the foreword and introduction were written proved to me that the man who painstakingly recreated each written nuance of Sophocles' dramas was not, in fact, a computer. Roche's most powerful passage, the Great Encounter, demonstrates his own personal reflections on the Theban trilogy while providing a glimpse into his complex views on humanity. This philosophy is filled with thought-provoking lines that challenge the reader to look beyond the text to create a fitting personal interpretation. By examining the nature and purpose of human existence, Roche opens up his writing to scrutiny and application in both Oedipus and the real world.

Despite many other intriguing lines in the foreword, the one which most captured my attention stated that "Human greatness consists ultimately in nobly accepting the responsibility of being what we are; human freedom, in the personal working out of our fate in terms appropriate to ourselves". The first part of the sentence is essentially declaring that an individual can only be truly great once he becomes conscious of his role in life and acts upon this newfound awareness. Personally, I strongly agree with the essence of what I think Roche is saying here. This philosophy gives everyone the opportunity to obtain greatness in their own right by looking within themselves to discern their place in life. The fact that the meaning of 'greatness' is so subjective means that each human can find satisfaction in his life despite whatever hardships he may endure. Furthermore, if a person acts on his perceived role in life, this does not imply that he must commit some miraculous act that garners praise from everyone the world over; rather, 'taking responsibility for what we are' suggests that even the most meager existence can be valuable and great as long as the individual in that scenario concludes wholeheartedly that he is using his given intellect and skills to their highest potential. Anything less than this would mean that he is neglecting the intrinsic and cliché responsibility of a human to live life to the fullest.

In Oedipus, the character who most clearly demonstrates self-awareness of his perceived place in life is Oedipus. Raised as the son of the King of Corinth, Oedipus realizes that a noble and powerful future lies ahead. With this knowledge, he can act accordingly to prepare himself for a life that will test him in unforeseen ways. Once Oedipus takes responsibility for his being, it is obvious that he finds true greatness, if only momentarily. Although character flaws and fate eventually bring him to his knees, the king rises to the top to defeat the Sphinx and take control of Thebes. I believe that such success was only possible with the help of Oedipus' own cognizance.




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