Comparing Oedipus and Minority Report

Sophocles Oedipus the King and Spielberg Minority Report. (Critical Essay) Sutton, nana. Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2005 Wheeled publications Many English teachers today pair older, canonical works with recent films that strongly allude to those earlier works–Mrs.. Daylong and The Hours, for example, or Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. One palling teachers might consider Is Sophocles Oedipus the King with Steven Spielberg 2002 film Minority Report. While it would be an exaggeration to call Minority Report a futuristic retelling of the Oedipus story, the film does borrow most of the central elements of Sophocles play.
In particular, the play and the film share an emphasis on literal and symbolic vision and blindness, a plot device in which a protagonist is told he will commit a murder in the future, and a thematic concern with fate and free will. Minority Report establishes its emphasis on vision and blindness within the first minute of the film. The first words we hear are “You know how blind I am without them,” spoken by a character named Howard Marks about his glasses. As we hear these words, we see a scissor blade stab through the eye of a face In a magazine photo, as Marks’s young son cuts out pictures for a homework project.
A few seconds later, we see a close-up of an eyeball. All this Is, of course, reminiscent not only of Oedipus stabbing out his own eyes but also of the many comments about vowels and blindness In Sophocles play, such as Oedipus comment to the plague-ravaged chorus, “How could I fail to see what longings bring you here? ” (142). As in the preceding quotation from Sophocles play, both the film and the play employ images of vision and blindness to refer not only to physical sight but also to seeing as understanding.

And in both works, this understanding involves past and future killings. In the film’s opening minute, we see images of events that have not yet taken place, but which are being “seen” by a woman named Ghats, the person whose eye appears in the close-up. Ghats is the most gifted of three “process”–humans blessed and cursed with the ability to envision murders before they take place, and thus used to warn the police of the murders so they can be prevented, In a system called “Presence. In the opening scene, Howard Marks has Just “seen” that his wife Is having an affair and that he is about to kill her and her lover with the scissors. But the police?led by the elm’s protagonist, John Anderson–prevent him from doing so. Similarly, in Oedipus the King, the one character who understands the truth and knows the future at the beginning of the play, Eateries, tells Oedipus, “You’re blind to the corruption of your life” (162).
In Minority Report, the linking of physical sight with understanding, specifically of murders, extends far beyond the opening sequence. Later, Ghats, tormented by knowing who murdered her mother and by the fact that the police have been fooled regarding the murderer’s identity, repeatedly shouts, “Can you see? To John Anderson as she tries to lead him to solve the crime. And when Anderson finally recognizes that his interest In this past crime is the reason he has been set up to be arrested for a future murder, his first words are, “How could I not have seen TLS? –a line reminiscent of Oedipus statement, shortly after realizing the truth of his situation, that he had been too long “blind to the ones [he] longed to Report play a role analogous to that of the Oracle at Delphi in Oedipus the King, a similarity made explicit in the film. The process stay in an area referred to as “the ample,” and early in the film, one character refers to the process collectively as “the oracle,” and their handlers, the police, as “the priests. And in both the play and the film, soon enough, the oracle tells the protagonist that he will commit murder. As a young man, Oedipus was told he would kill his father and have children by his mother (185); early in the film, Anderson is informed by the process that he will murder someone named Leo Crow. Although both protagonists are informed that they will commit murders in the future, both the play and the film are set in worlds erupted by the fact that political leaders have not been detected for murders they committed in the past.
In Oedipus the King, Thebes suffers from a plague that can be removed only when the murderer of the previous king is discovered and punished–a murderer who turns out to be the current king, Oedipus. In Minority Report, Washington, DC (and thus implicitly the entire nation, especially since precise is about to go national rather than being limited to DC) is corrupted by the fact that the head of precise, Lamar Burgess, has murdered Ghats’s mother to prevent losing Ghats as a precook, unbeknownst to anyone but Ghats.
Thus in both works, the protagonist is doubly a detective: he must discover the truth about the oracle’s prediction that he would murder someone, and he must solve the murder that corrupts the political world in which the work is set. In addition, the protagonists of both works receive prophecies not only from seemingly divine oracles, but also from blind mortals. Eateries declares that Oedipus is himself the murderer of the previous king (159) and then adds, correctly, that by the day’s end Oedipus will be reduced to blind beggar and will know he is both son and husband to his wife, both brother and father to his children (164).
In Minority Report, a sleazy character with grotesque, hollow sockets where his eyes should be sells John Anderson a drug he calls “Clarity” and then says, “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”–a statement that proves prophetic later in the film when Anderson, possessing only one of his original eyes, is able to outwit others who are “blind” to the true situation regarding the murder that Burgess committed. The most obvious, and obviously sight-related, really between the two works is the fact that both protagonists voluntarily lose their eyes.
And in each case, this loss of eyes largely coincides with the protagonist’s ability to “see” in a deeper sense. Once Oedipus realizes that he did indeed murder his father and marry his mother–once he sees the truth–he stabs out his eyes. In the futuristic world of Minority Report, omnipresent eye scans make hiding virtually impossible, and so Anderson, once he is wanted for the future murder of Leo Crow, has his eyes removed and exchanged for a different pair to evade detection, having en advised by one of the inventors of precise that “Sometimes in order to see the light you have to risk the dark. It is only through this swapping of eyes–and through retaining at least one of his original eyes in a plastic bag, for use in eye scans for security clearance–that he is eventually able to “see the light” and solve both mysteries: why he is accused of murdering Leo Crow and how Lamar Burgess murdered Ghats’s mother. When we reach the protagonist’s encounter with the person he was predicted to kill, both the play and the film are somewhat ambiguous other), as the oracle had said he would, despite every effort he makes to avoid fulfilling this fate.
Indeed, his efforts to avoid his fate lead him to precisely the spot where he must be to fulfill it. But critics have long emphasized that the character traits Oedipus displays in the plays present are precisely the ones that would have naturally led him to react as he did when he encountered his father (Knox and Thaliana 598). They have also emphasized that the gods can know the future without causing it (Odds 23). Thus, the killing seems both an expression of inexorable fate and the natural expression of Oedipus character.
Similarly, when John Anderson finally confronts Leo Crow, he tries to arrest Crow rather than kill him– but Crow, determined to die, grabs for Andersen’s gun and is eventually fatally shot, with the film ambiguous as to whether Anderson (accidentally) or Crow (intentionally) pulls the trigger. So, Anderson does not attempt to murder Crow yet plays a role in the man’s death. Moreover, the film paradoxically insists that although the future can be accurately predicted, those who know their future have the power to change it.
Thus, both works concede considerable power to fate but also leave room for free will. Minority Report alludes to Oedipus the King in smaller ways as well. Early on, a character named Danny Witter repeatedly mentions finding a “flaw” in Anderson– surely an echo of the concept of “tragic flaw” in characters like Oedipus. Later, as curiosity leads Anderson toward confronting Leo Crow, whom he has never met but whom he is “supposed” to murder, Ghats warns him, “You have a choice. Walk away. Now. ” But he refuses, saying, “l can’t. I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life.

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