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October 05, 2006

Lindsey's Oedipus Quote Commentary

“Good words
for someone careful, afraid he’ll fall.
But a mind like lightning
stumbles.” (Sophocles, Oedipus the King, pg. 51)

This passage is said by the Leader after Oedipus had accused Kreon of murdering Laios. The interesting part of this passage is, “a mind like lightning stumbles.” The leader is comparing the human mind with a quick, powerful force of nature. The leader is therefore implying that a quick, brilliant, and powerful mind can actually lead one to stumble. Stumbling is a human act of missing a step. Stumbling of the mind can occurs when one’s thought process misses a key point or idea. This passage is interesting because it brings up a theme of knowledge in the play. Even a mind that is powerful and brilliant, like lightning, can err. Oedipus has a brilliant mind because he is able to solve the riddle of the sphinx. He further shows his knowledge by actively pursuing the truth to the plague of Thebes. However, his mind like lightning is oblivious to his own fate, and therefore stumbles.

Posted by linzsmit at October 5, 2006 09:34 PM

Comments

Lindsey -

I like the way you set up your quote in the context of "a quick, powerful force of nature" and oppose it to human fallibility of knowledge, logic and truth. It is Oedipus's knowledge and brilliance, his lightning of mind that leads to both his powerful feats and to his own destruction - his quest for knowledge is ultimately leads to his downfall.

-Emma

Posted by: emmorris at October 7, 2006 01:34 PM

Lindsey -

I like the way you set up your quote in the context of "a quick, powerful force of nature" and oppose it to human fallibility of knowledge, logic and truth. It is Oedipus's knowledge and brilliance, his lightning of mind that leads to both his powerful feats and to his own destruction - his quest for knowledge is ultimately leads to his downfall. Furthermore, your analysis of the langauge itself in the context of the entire play lends to the conjecture that the forces of nature, or the gods, are essentially the forces behind Oedipus's fate - that although humans and nature may fail, fate will always reveals itself in the end.

-Emma

Posted by: emmorris at October 7, 2006 01:36 PM

Interesting points -- you could also have paid attention to an interesting word in the passage -- "afraid". Oedipus is being set up in this passage (by contrast) as someone who is not afraid. Is this consistent with what we see of him in the play? Is he ever afraid?

Another interesting thing is the structure of sentence "But a mind like lightning/stumbles" as it has been set forth on paper. By putting "stumbles" in a separate line all on its own, the sentence itself mimics the act of stumbling -- the smooth flow of the sentence is "interrupted" by the line break in the same way that, when someone trips and takes a stumble, it's an interruption of his trajectory.

Posted by: bhattach at October 9, 2006 01:38 AM

Lindsey,

I enjoyed reading your commentary. I thought the way you compared Oedipus' actions and thoughts to the power of lightning was very accurate. I also think that the fast acting and spontaneous nature of lightning can relate to Oedipus' overconfidence as well. He is so sure of himself, that he does not take the time to consider what his rapid actions may illuminate (or destroy). It is true that Oedipus' mind is the cause of his downfall and your commentary thoroughly explains that.

Jenny

Posted by: jennlong at October 9, 2006 03:33 PM

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