Oedipus’ hubris prevents Oedipus from discovering the truth about his family and his sins sooner by creating a wall between him and others’ reason and causing to assume the wrong things beforehand. For instance, when Teiresias accuses him of killing Laius, Oedipus furiously cries, “You dare say that! Can you possibly think you / have / Some way of going free, after such insolence?” (19). Here, Oedipus conceitedness blinds him. He does not want to admit to himself and especially the people of Thebes that he is the pollution, the murderer, and the abomination that is slowly destroying the country when he himself is the king. If he did not have such ignorance and believed in Teiresias’ words, perhaps he would have had more time to come up with a solution, like giving up the throne and quietly traveling to a country far away. Another example of how his hubris blinds him is when he talks about how he heard his terrible prophecy, for he smugly remarks, “I have kept clear of Corinth, and no harm has / come— / Though it would have been sweet to see my parents again” (52). This proves that Oedipus is crippled by what he already knows and falsely assumes that he has already escaped from the prophecy involving his parents. If Oedipus did not always assume things, he would have been able to put the pieces together faster, and his anagnorisis would not have occurred after everyone else had figured out the truth. This habit of assuming things before inquiring about the whole truth also causes him to underestimate the gods and the Oracle’s abilities.
Oedipus’ pride in how he became king induces him to commit blasphemy against the gods, so they become angry at his mockery and punish him heavily. Although he may have gotten to such a high position through luck, he should still thank the gods for providing him with good fortune in order to follow Greek culture. Evidence of his blasphemy occurs when Oedipus self righteously mocks Teiresias, “When that hellcat the Sphinx was performing here…Your birds— / What good were they? or the gods, for that matter / of that?” (22). Oedipus does not think highly of the gods since he believes he achieved everything himself. He is egotistical because he puts himself on a pedestal by showing off how he achieved his position with his own power and claims all the credit for defeating the Sphinx when the gods were probably just throwing good fortune his way. In Greek culture, all of the natural phenomena and good or bad fortune were explained through how the gods behaved, and Oedipus is basically scorning the roots that hold Thebes together. This blasphemy obviously horrifies the Chorus because they grieve, “Haughtiness and the high hand of disdain / Tempt and outrage God’s holy law” (46). The gods are infuriated by the king’s belief that he is inferior to one. Because of this, when he reaches his fulminant anagnorisis, he is put through much suffering: he is separated from the people he loves most, he is forever blinded, and he is forced to leave Thebes, the land that he once ruled. Maybe if he had not mocked the gods, his peripeteia would not have been as extreme, and he might have had a chance of dying without any regrets. Unfortunately, his one tragic flaw prevents from living the happy life at the top of society that he could have had.
Hubris is the main reason for Oedipus’ peripeteia because it is the reason why he killed King Laius in the first place, it prevents him from discovering the truth sooner, and it causes him to commit blasphemy and anger the gods. In the end, the major sin he committed all began with his mistake of letting his hubris run wild and allowing himself to be angered by the trivial matter of respecting his own father. Also, his stubbornness in not listening to other people’s reason before his own makes him the last person to realize that the prophecies were all true. The gods are not happy with the excessive pride he protects and how he refuses to bow down to their superiority, so they make him suffer for the rest of his life. In conclusion, all of the suffering and change in fortune that Oedipus goes through is ultimately the result of his hubris: his excessive pride, arrogance, insolence, and pomposity. Therefore, the lesson taught by Sophocles in this beautiful tragedy is that no matter who you are or where you come from, do not count your chickens before they are hatched.