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The Foundling & the Myth of Oedipus

This study will analyze Heinrich Von Kleist's story "The Foundling" in the context of the myth of Oedipus as portrayed by Sophocles in his play Oedipus the King. The study will compare the two tales, identifying correspondences in plot and character, and will compare the treatments of the concept of chance or fortune in the two works.

There are undeniable correspondences between the two stories in the areas designated, but the overall impression of this reader is that these similarities should not mislead us into any sense that the two works are equal in quality or depth of tragedy. Beside the elegantly tragic tale of Oedipus, "The Foundling" comes off as a complex, but absurdly comic farce.

On first glance, in part because of this great difference in depth of effect between the two stories, there do not appear to be many points of comparison which will yield meaningful light on either work. However, looking at the stories objectively, there do begin to come clear certain correspondences. Oedipus himself can be compared to Piachi. Both men can be said to be generally good at heart, and both make sudden, rash judgments which come back to haunt them and ruin their lives.

At the same time, we must admit that there is a great difference between Oedipus' murder of his father and the mercy Piachi shows the little plague-diseased boy. In terms of the conception of the role of chance or fortune, however, we can argue that both sudden events were indeed the results of destiny's capricious tossing of the dice.

In other words, if we accept the philosophy of chance, either man would not have faced such ruination had they been only a minute ahead or behind of their actual schedules. Oedipus would not have had the argument over right-of-way with the old man who turns out to be his father and whom he murders, and Piachi would not have seen the boy, taken mercy on him, and played a central role in his own son's death from the plagu...

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The Foundling & the Myth of Oedipus. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:49, September 23, 2020, from