Sigmund Freud used the term Oedipus complex in the psychoanalytic approach that he developed in an attempt to understand human behavior. In the approach, Freud integrated his theory of the psychosexual stages of development which proposed that a child will develop, a strong sexual desire for the parent of the opposite sex during the phallic stage. The boy, for example, desires the mother so much that he views his father as a rival. To resolve the conflict, the child recognizes that the rival parent is stronger than him, realizes the physical differences between females and males and comes to terms with the fact that the only choice they have is to identify with the parent of the same sex. In reference to Oedipus the King by Sophocles, the tenets of Freud's psychosexual stages theory may be applied to interpret Oedipus actions (Bylund 38). However, I strongly disagree that Oedipus has an Oedipus complex. The fact that Oedipus runs away from the disgusting oracle, kills his father and marries his biological mother are only coincidental, not a confirmation that he has Oedipus complex.
Oedipus adopted parents
When Oedipus is born of King Laius, his father learns from the oracle that this child is doomed because he will kill him and marry his wife. This forces the king to order his wife, Queen Jocasta, to kill the child though she hesitates and hands the child over to one of her servants, who does not kill but takes the child to the mountain where a shepherd sees and rescues him (Bylund 58). The baby is then handed to the family of King Polybus of Corinth who raise him as their own. As a young Corinthian, Oedipus is informed by the Delphic Oracle that he is doomed because he is going to marry Queen Merope, his mother, after murdering King Polybus, Oedipus father. He says:
OEDIPUS. It's public knowledge. Loxias once said it was my fate that I would marry my own mother and shed my father's blood with my own hands. That's why, many years ago, I left my home in Corinth (1182 1186)
This means that he is so disgusted by this prophecy that he decides to leave Corinth. It proves that he is innocent because he runs away in a bid to avoid having the oracle fulfilled. If he had the Oedipus complex, he would not have thought of running away since the id, as proposed by Freud, would have been too strong for him to think of running away.
Why did Oedipus kill his father?
Secondly, Oedipus is not willing to have his father die in his hands. This is one of the reasons he leaves Corinth. However, on his way, he meets with his real father, and in a scuffle over who has the right of way, he kills the father and his men. He declares:
OEDIPUS. As I was on the move, I passed close by a spot where three roads meet, and in that place I met a herald and a horse-drawn carriage, with a man inside, just as you described. The guide there tried to force me off the road and the old man, too, got personally involved. In my rage, I lashed out at the driver, who was shoving me aside. The old man, seeing me walking past him in the carriage, kept his eye on me, and with his double whip struck me on the head, right here on top. Well, I retaliated in good measure with the staff I held. I hit him a quick blow and knocked him from his carriage to the road. He lay there on his back. Then I killed them all. (963 - 977)
Although killing his father makes Oedipus gain access to his mother, it does not mean that he has Oedipus complex. He only did it in self-defense, not out of hatred for his father. Any other person would have taken a similar or equivalent action in an effort to defend themselves. The fact that Oedipus not only kills his father but also his men proves that he is innocent and does not have Oedipus complex.
Why did Oedipus marry his mother?
Finally, when Oedipus frees the kingdom of Thebes, he is rewarded with kingship and Queen Jocasta's hand in marriage (Bylund 79). Both Jocasta and Oedipus are not aware that they are mother and son respectively. This is irrelevant since it has not been driven by any sexual desires. Jocasta even advises him not to worry:
JOCASTA. Do not worry you will wed your mother. It's true that in their dreams a lot of men have slept with their own mothers, but someone who ignores all this bears life more easily. (980 983)
This proves that Oedipus does not have Oedipus complex. In any case, this is a mere coincidence because he had already detached himself from Oedipus' mother a long time ago. He only marries the queen because, as the king, he is obliged to marry the widowed queen. He is therefore innocent and only acts out of obligation.
In conclusion, it is clear that Oedipus does not have Oedipus complex. Whatever befalls him is generally coincidental. Fate, that is one of Oedipus the King themes, had it that Oedipus would face the circumstances he faces in the text irrespective of the actions he took.
Bylund, Jessica. "Did Oedipus suffer from the Oedipal Complex? A psychological analysis of Oedipus in Oedipus the King." (2015).
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