Oedipus killed his father and married his mother, driving his mother to suicide, causing his exile, and ensuring a miserable life for his daughter and traveling companion, Antigone. And yet, Oedipus didn't knowingly commit these acts, didn't wish to commit them, and punished himself harshly by gouging out his eyes and wandering the land as an outcast and beggar.
By accepting his fate and punishment in Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus has atoned for his guilt. He is at peace in the grove of the Furies, the avenging spirits of Greek mythology who punished those who killed a parent or sibling—or who broke their oaths. In addition, in his blindness, he now has powers of prophecy, as well as the power to offer eternal protection to a deserving leader of a just city. Oedipus at Colonus shows Oedipus's final transformation from an outcast in life to a hero in death—a redemption earned through years of hardship and remorse. His miraculous death proves that the gods who brought on his awful fate feel that he has suffered enough and has earned a kind of immortality. They welcome him to the underworld so that he may at last rest in peace.
Redemption and Atonement ThemeTracker
Redemption and Atonement Quotes in Oedipus at Colonus
a man on earth, if a god leads him on,
who can escape his fate.
from a stranger, lost as you are now,
or fail to lend a hand to save a life.
I am only a man, well I know,
and I have no more power over tomorrow,
Oedipus, than you.
once I'd come to the world of pain, as come I did,
I fell to blows with my father, cut him down in blood—
blind to what I was doing, blind to whom I killed—
how could you condemn that involuntary act
with any sense of justice?
I beg them, I storm them with my prayers—
Come to the rescue, fight for me, my champions!
So you can learn your lesson, Creon, learn
what breed of men stands guard around this city.
you and your great country. Here among you,
you alone of all mankind—
I have discovered reverence, humanity
and lips that never lie.
to beg too long, or a man to receive help,
then fail to treat a fellow victim kindly.
let Oedipus rest forever.