David Gallagher's Reviews > Oedipus Rex

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
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Mar 20, 10


As a student in a Greek high school I was more or less forced to read this, translate it from the ancient Greek text for my exams to "prove" I deserved to go to the next educational level (where we did Homer), do assignments on it, listen to my professors as they spoke of its "meaning" and ask myself why Sophocles wrote it to begin with. And I HATED the damn thing. I hated Oedipus just as much as I hated Sophocles.

However, when I left high school, I realized that people - not only in Greece, but around the world - praised it as a masterful writing. Even though a Greek tragedy - with the always heavy hovering Fate over the heroes and their family tree - it's so much more than what my high school teacher told us it was. I wasn't mature enough to understand it then (I viewed Oedipus as a incestuous, poor bastard at the time!) I'm old enough to do so now. And not many things can be said about its vastly horrific grandeur.
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Kernos So true, David. I was not ready for much that I was forced to read in high school. Oedipus bored me then, but did introduce me to the concept of fate & determinism. I just didn't have and hooks to hang those coats on, nor experiences to relate to them nor had I been introduced to contrary ideas. Every decade brings new thoughts and meaning to the cycle, which is probably why we still read these ancient plays.

The danger in introducing such works to kids is that it may turn them off to literature. The teacher is so important in this regard.


David Gallagher You couldn't be more right - that's why I love this play: it presents fate in a way that can be modified and molded to be relative in all eras.

I'm actually convinced that introducing such books to high school will turn them away from literature. That's why so few of them read literature. When you force-feed books like The Catcher In the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird to 14-year-olds you can't expect them to like them, or understand their significance. I disliked Homer and Plato and Aristotle in school, but more than love them now. I think schools should introduce great works to kids, but not this way. Teachers are important when it comes to this, like you noted.


Niru as a high school English teacher who loves literature and selects such works for my students to read do you have specific suggestions for dos and don'ts ?


David Gallagher I think as far as Oedipus goes, it's a 'do' for me. I remember when we did this in high school, I was rather intrigued by the whole incest plot and the father-murdering and the eye-poking - so at least it'll keep students interested! Other Sophocles plays are 'dos' as well for me - "Antigone" for one. And the comedians are excellent for high school students - Aristophanes mostly. If you go even farther, Homer and Herodotus can never go wrong.

For me, Euripides and Aeschylus are 'don'ts.' I was very weary of them in high school - not enough "intrigue" there; I found them tedious (though I learned better later in life).

Either way, I think there's a great chance that no matter WHAT you choose, your students might not like it. All students tend to dislike the books they're 'FORCED' to read in high school.


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