In Oedipus I Oedipus, King of Thebes, is searching for the source of the plague. He learns that he is the source of the plague because he killed his father and slept with his mother and blinds himself.
In Sophocles’s sequel Oedipus ponders on his fate and dies, but is accepted by Zeus. The messengers report his death and don’t even know what happened to him:
We couldn’t see the man- he was gone- nowhere! And the king, alone, shielding his eyes, both hands spread out against his face as if- some terrible wonder flashed before his eyes and he, he could not bear to look.
The action in Sophocles’s Oedipus II is a little slow for my taste.
I pitch the following:
Oedipus goes to a weird island — Islandia. There he learns that all the baby’s are born by artificial insemination and the sperms are all mixed up together. Every man is potentially the father of every child in Islandia and the lover of every woman — including his mother. Needless to say there is occasional need to impose the death penalty in Islandia, and this is done by lot as well. So since nobody knows who his father is every executioner in a sense executes his own father. Oedipus realizes that Islandia is actually Thebes.
My father said: You and Sophocles are still too obsessed with knowledge. Oedipus in Sophocles is like “Yes, it was wrong to sleep with my mother, but I didn’t know!” Your Oedipus learns that everybody has some degree of ignorance. But that’s entirely the wrong question.
I ask: “Why Dad?”
Dad: I pitch the following story. It is better than yours and better than Sophocles’s. In my story the self-blinded Oedipus goes to Islandia and learns their biology is a bit different than ours. Hundreds of men mate with a single woman and a bit of the DNA from each of their sperms connects with her egg, so every child has hundreds of fathers. Every murder is an actual fratricide. Every mating is an actual act of incest, because plasmids cause bits of DNA to hop from male to female, crossing the lines of generation. In fact, what is a generation on this island? Oedipus realizing this becomes Zeus and has the power to forgive himself.
I ask: But what about the plague?
Dad: The plague is just this same world viewed with resentment. The DNA popping from organism to organism someitmes seems like evolution but sometimes seems like a plague.
We asked Mom which version of Oedipus she preferred: Dad’s or mine. She said
“I’m busy. Ask Grandma.”
We asked Grandma. She said “Look all these stories are children’s fairy tales and they never appreciate them because children have it exactly backwards. They want to grow up.”