Comparison of 'Oedipus The King' and 'The Minority Report'

Modified: 20th Sep 2021
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“Oedipus the King” is one of the many great tragedies written in the 5th century (King Oedipus, pg 5). It is a story of the great King of Thebes who is besieged by a plague; which he thinks is a curse placed on his realm because of the murder of the previous king, King Laius. His pride and arrogance leads him to search out the murderers of Laius in order to bring them to justice and lift the curse. In a similar story John Anderton, the head of a special police force called PreCrime set in 2050, is put to the task of finding a man whom he has been prophesied to murder in 36 hours. In both of these stories the protagonists are dealing with prophesies that they will murder someone in their futures.

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“King Oedipus” by Robert J. Milch is about a king who saved a city, Thebes, from a plague and ceded to the throne from a deceased king named Laius and married his widow who was their Queen (King, 25). Oedipus had fled his own land to avoid a prophecy that he would murder his father and marry his mother (20). The story is about his choices of free will to avoid the fate of the prophecy and how blindness to the truth caused him to bring it about. Tiresias is a blind prophet who tries to tell the truth to Oedipus but his pride and arrogance blind him from it. The truth turns out that Oedipus killed Laius his real father and married his widow, his real mother (26, 27). The story is about how Oedipus learns the eventual truth in spite of his efforts to avoid the prophecy and how his stubborn blindness hid the facts till the prophecy came true. In the article written by Brian Sutton; “Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and Stephen Spielberg’s Minority Report” is about a respected policeman, John Anderton, in Washington D.C. who heads a special unit called PreCrime. They use seers called preCogs to predict when someone will commit a murder and capture these people before the crime is made. He sees a preCog vision; before the police do, that shows him murdering a man. He must go on the run to prove that he will not do it. Agatha, the most powerful of the preCogs, ends up bonding with the policeman and helps him discover the truths behind that prophecy and exposes some truths that he was blind to (194).

The first comparison is Sophocles’ use of blindness as a symbol to show how Oedipus at first did not see the truth about who murdered Laius. In Oedipus’ youth an Oracle of Apollo gave him the prophecy that he would kill his father and would marry his mother, and then they would bear children. In order to prevent this horrible prediction he left his home in Corinth leaving who he thought were his parents and traveled to Thebes where the prophecy unfolds (King, 20). This same symbolism is connected to John Anderton who saw the vision that the preCogs saw. There were three preCogs and Agatha was the most powerful. This vision predicted that John would murder a man named Leo Crow in 36 hours. He goes on the run from his own peers in order to find this man and prove that he will not murder him. Oedipus does not see the prophecy unfolding around him and John Anderton does not see the truth about the events unfolding around his investigation. Both men in two different stories can see all that happens around them but fail to see the truth about the murders. It is their journeys that bring into the light the real truth. Thus the comparison of sight verses blindness how we sometimes miss the big picture because we are too concerned about the small stuff.

Another interesting concept is how the two protagonists gain insight into the predictions as foreseen by their own prophecies. Tiresias tries to make Oedipus understand that there are circumstances he is unaware of and should not pursue this search for Laius’ murderers. Oedipus does not or will not look at the truth and won’t listen to Tiresias and moves ever closer to the fateful completion of the prophecy. In “Oedipus Tyrannus” James Weigel writes that “Sophocles believed that fate is not essentially external of humans but also transcendent. People can give in to their fates or they can exercise choice that can control their fates” (4). Agatha, the strongest preCog tries to guide Anderton toward the truth but he does not understand her meanings and because of this makes decisions that cause events that lead him closer to the prediction that he will in fact murder Leo Crow. While the two protagonists make free will choices to avoid their prophecies coming to light, they continue to spiral in toward that fateful moment of truth. The blind prophet and the preCog are both instrumental in the out come of the two heroes.

Free will is a penchant for both protagonists. Both believe in their causes. Oedipus believes that finding the murderer or murderers of Laius will expose the truth, help his people, and increase his greatness. He does not realize that discovering the truth will expose him as the murderer of Laius and at the same time make the prophecy true (King, 33). John Anderton does not believe he would murder anyone but the power of the preCogs has him rattled. Even so he is hell bent to pursue his quest to expose this man named Leo Crow whom he eventually ends up killing. In both stories the protagonists believe and attempt to make choices that will prevent the prophecies from coming to fruition but instead cause events that make them true.

Although there are similarities to the plights of the two protagonists their stories are different. Oedipus does not know who murdered Laius but the audience does, it is him. He is slow to realize this truth which has a traumatic realization for him. It is then that he finally realizes that everything he did leading up to the truth, and all his efforts in the past to avoid the prophecy, were the causes of it. John Anderton knows from the beginning who is the murderer. Also, according to the prophecy, it is him. However, the prophecy was secretively contrived. While he is trying to undo this prediction he is blind to the underlying reason as to why the prophecy has been made. With all his choices to pursue this path, he is unaware that it was all a complex set-up. Someone had manipulated the preCogs through a meticulous set of events that caused the prophecy. Each choice of free will leads him ever closer to Leo Crow. Upon the realization of the truth, it destroys almost everything he has had faith in about the Pre-Crime program.

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Oedipus and Tiresias clash when Tiresias is given audience to Oedipus. Because Oedipus is being stubbornly blind to Tiresias’ warning he chooses not give Oedipus the truth about how Laius was murdered and angers Oedipus greatly. Because of this Tiresias makes another prophecy that Oedipus, upon finding the truth, will be doomed to blindness himself. Oedipus’ pride and fits of rage blind him further. In “Oedipus Tyrannus”, James Weigel wrote, “Each time [someone] tries to comfort him with information, the information serves to damn him more thoroughly” (5). John Anderton must physically blind himself to disguise his identity and further his quest to find Leo Crow. He ends up bonding with Agatha who is not blind and she ends up helping John but not in a way he foresees the real truth begins to unfold and in the end John sees something that upsets the apple cart completely. Although the two heroes end up understanding what they did not see in the beginning, they find out in two completely different ways.

Oedipus learns to his doom that he in fact did kill his father and married his mother. Although not intentional he sees the act as horrible and upon seeing the light, for which he had been too blind to see, he gouges his eyes and blinds himself. In contrast, John’s blindness ends up being the instrument to exposing the truth and in the process the reality behind the PreCrime program comes to light. It is interesting that both men in two completely different and separate worlds followed similar paths. Both managed to fulfill a fateful prophecy even though they believed they were making their own choices. In the end what they did not, or could not, see came into the light. All the events in both prophecies came true but for two entirely different reasons, and in both stories, their decision to use their free will and change the prophecies led to the fulfillment of them.


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