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Oedipus Rex | Symbols


Sophocles's use of symbolism enhances the idea of fate throughout the tragedy. Characters are faced with crucial decisions but always choose the paths that ultimately lead to their fates.


A major symbol in Oedipus Rex is that of the crossroads, the place where the three roads meet in Phocis. When people are said to be at a crossroads, they are about to make decisions that will influence the rest of their lives in major ways. At this crossroads Oedipus kills his father. He does not realize he has fulfilled part of his fate, but the crossroads, as a symbol of a life-altering decision, tells the audience otherwise before Oedipus himself realizes what he has done.

Swollen Feet

Oedipus's name means "swollen feet" or "knowledge of one's feet." His feet were pierced and bound when he was an infant and his parents abandoned him. He was rescued by a messenger, but his feet were scarred as a result. The scars symbolize the crippling fate destined for him from his birth. It is an example of situational irony that neither Oedipus nor Jocasta connect his scars with the story of his birth.

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