Upon reading The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Oedipus the King, The Crying of Lot 49, and Dostoevski's "The Grand Inquisitor on the Nature of Man", I find that a common theme links their ideas together. As the four stories progress, the main characters all receive knowledge which affects their view of their environment and themselves. The process of learning and obtaining knowledge undoubtedly causes a strong impact on each of their lives, especially in terms of their freedom and happiness. From my perspective, however, the nature of this impact becomes ambiguous, with the author's message interpretable in different ways.
[...] Learning eventually makes them more happy and more free. In Oedipus the King, Sophocles has his main character receive a series of revelations which convict him of incest and parricide, and lead him to poke out his eyes and leave the kingdom forever. Certainly it would seem that knowledge in the case of Oedipus makes him lose all happiness and actually makes him stop believing in the freedom of man. was Apollo, friends, Apollo that brought this bitter bitterness, my sorrows to completion,” Oedipus says (Sophocles 68). [...]
[...] With the loss of all connections, she becomes completely free. This freedom does make Oedipa happier. To the end of the novel, Oedipa never tries to give up her search for the truth. Even after being followed on city streets late at night by men in black suits and being exposed to the possibility of it all being a hoax, she refuses to surrender her search, because she could not be happy without knowing that it is possible to find the truth. [...]
[...] He does not wish Christ to ruin all he feels he has accomplished by convincing the people of his nation that to live in ignorance and sacrifice freedom is to achieve happiness. He declares, the end they will lay their freedom at our feet and say to us, ‘Make us your slaves but feed us'” (Doestoevski 30). People will gladly sacrifice freedom and choice to live a guaranteed life in which all needs are provided for, and in which one can be free of responsibilities. [...]
[...] Like Frederick Douglass, Oedipus is more content knowing the truth, regardless of the implications on his life. To live in ignorance of his true self would leave him unhappy and feeling unsatisfied. Just before the old herdsman reveals the truth to the public, Oedipus says, of frightful hearing. But I must hear” (Sophocles 62). He does not care if the truth is revealed, since he is already content with knowing it. Speaking of his ill-fate, Oedipus says, the hand that struck me was none but my own. [...]
[...] The nature of freedom and its relationship to happiness and knowledge seem to have an ambiguity in all of these stories. Upon closer analysis though, one interpretation becomes stronger than the others. To all of these characters, the attainment of knowledge increases both happiness and freedom. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I find that as Douglass becomes more educated, he seemingly becomes less happy with his state in life, and feels less free as a slave. [...]
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