Composing a Perfect Oedipus the King Analysis Essay
Oedipus the King is one of the works that are most often assigned to students to write about, so your first step is to find a topic that is not overused or trite. You can achieve it by focusing on the plot, rather than on literary devices.
Remember that a literary analysis essay should move beyond the summary of plot or characters, and beyond your personal opinion. Make an argument and defend it with evidence from the text.
Developing a Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement is the foundation to build your whole essay on. To develop a strong thesis statement, you need to read a literary work, then think of any questions you have about it. There must be at least one aspect that makes you confused or curious. Examples of such questions one may ask about Oedipus the King are:
- Why is Oedipus typically viewed as a heroic character, despite his apparently self-destructive behavior and traits such as arrogance and rashness?
- What played a greater role in Oedipus’s downfall – fate (portrayed as the will of the gods and goddesses) or his own actions?
Make a list of all questions that come to your mind after reading Oedipus the King to select the best one for your essay. Use this checklist to determine whether your question is good:
- Is it open to interpretation? (A good literary analysis question should have more than one possible answer, like both the exemplary questions above. A simple factual question such as “what was the blind prophet’s name?” does not meet this condition.)
- Do you need to look at various parts of the play to answer it?
- Is it broad enough to expand on for several pages?
After you have selected your essay question, rewrite it as an assertion. For example, “despite his apparently self-destructive behavior and traits such as arrogance and rashness, Oedipus is typically viewed as a heroic character because he rebelled against the power of fate.” This will be your thesis statement.
Writing Your Essay
- Search the book for specific examples that support your thesis, e. g. the steps Oedipus takes to avoid his destiny.
- Use the observation-quotation-explanation method; make a comment on the play, back it with a quotation from the text, then explain how this quotation supports your thesis.
- Rephrase your thesis statement in your last paragraph: “Oedipus combated his tragic destiny in a truly heroic way, but his arrogance and rashness became his downfall.” If the evidence and reasoning you presented throughout your essay are strong enough, your reader should now be convinced.