For my literary element project, I have chosen to write a short story in the form of a play to explore a central theme throughout Oedipus Rex: free will against fate. While the story may not seem directly connected to Oedipus Rex, both the characterization (of the protagonist) and the plot in my story alludes to Oedipus and certain major plot points in Oedipus Rex.
I have used the relationship between ants (protagonists) and humans (antagonists) to present an analogy for that of Oedipus and the Fates. This analogy highlights the relative helplessness of Oedipus (ants) to escape the will of the Gods (humans). The main protagonist of my story, Cepheus, is characterized to be stubborn and hubristic (“I stand tall, I was chosen by the Earth and Sky”, etc.), always refusing to accept the truth (just like Oedipus). This theme of rebelling against fate is developed through both the story and Oedipus Rex to be the major conflict. At the beginning of the story, a grim fate is presented to the ant-hive (“Queen: I hear the thunderous calls of those forsaken Men…”). Cepheus, prideful and obstinate, refuses to listen to the truth and attempts to challenge the prophecy (“I stand, unblinded, at your words of terror”). However, as he tried to escape his prophecy, his actions only further sealed it. The story’s parallelism of plot with Oedipus Rex metaphorically describes Oedipus (and Laios and Jocasta) as powerless ants in the eyes of Fate, and asks whether Oedipus was able to avoid tragedy if he was without his hubris.
This play’s intended audience is for middle-schoolers who may not be comfortable with the plot of Oedipus Rex. They may explore the theme of free will-versus-fate, and consider how the fatal flaw of “hubris” may lead to tragedy.
Below is my Literary Element Project:
The roars of giants echoed through the searing summer skies; the very earth trembled beneath their feet. They could lift mountains and create oceans, shatter stones and uproot weeds… but they weren’t benevolent gods, no – they were anything but that. We’ve heard of many, so many tales of one single stomp robbing the lives of hivefuls of the most seasoned warriors, and from each calamity, only few survived to tell the tales. Tales of terror.
[Group of ants wrestling with each other, playing
[Enter Cepheus and Corvus, shadowed by blades of grass and beside an ant’s hill.
Lovely day, isn’t it? How the sun gleams, and the breeze flows. How I’d wish to wander the fields in the horizon.
I wish you may, but I fear the Queen may say otherwise.
The Queen? To earthworms about the Queen! Don’t tell me…
[Corvus cowers behind a blade of grass, wide-eyed
Oh, out with you. Who wouldn’t grow tired of her mindless chattering!
[Corvus does not respond, hiding still
Oh, relax. I’ve accomplished far greater things than those the Queen dares to punish. I’ve built a third of the hive’s tunnels myself! I’ve fought the red ants and won. Earth, I’ve even survived Humans!
Don’t speak of the Queen like so.
I’ve not seen her do anything spare for devouring food in her den! How does she speak for the hive when she does nothing but wither it!
She may seize the skies with her wings. She is our overseer and thus our guardian.
She hasn’t guarded anything but her stash of food.
[Queen enters, flying above the hive
Workers and warriors of the hive – I come forth with news of the future.
[Cepheus rolls eyes
I hear the thunderous calls of those forsaken Men.
I feel the weeds tremble beneath their bloodstained feet.
I see their red, string-spun fabrics in the horizon.
They march upon us, warriors, and they will arrive before high noon.
You are brave, yet the destructive will of those cursed gods are not opposable by us.
They have trampled hive and hive before us, and we shall not be foolish enough to meet the beasts’ hooves with the lives of our precious people.
Burrow with me, hive, for they may not find us within the shroud of the Earth.
Burrow with me, and we shall emerge to embrace sunlight the following day.
[Exit Scene I
[Enter Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, into a grassy field, hair drenched in water
This damned heat. At this rate, I’d be charred meat in a few hours.
Stop complaining! At least your stupid watergun didn’t break!
Hey, it wasn’t me who broke it.
[Lachesis glares at Atropos angrily
[Clotho spits on the ground
Alright, I’m bored. Can we just…
Race you to the anthill!
[Lachesis and Atropos starts running
[Clotho rolls her eyes and follows
[Exit Scene II
[Enter five Worker Ants, above ground, with Cepheus and Corvus
O, brothers, return to the hive with us, where we shall be safe from the wrath of those wretched beings.
I fear not of those supposed gods. The tales do not terrify me.
I plead, brothers, follow me through the tunnels. We wish not to lose another fine warrior to those demons.
Convince my brother so, and I shall gladly follow.
You claim the bodies of our fallen warriors,
You pledged to stand vanguard against any evils who come.
Yet here you are, cowering under the very mention of their names.
You trust this foolish Queen and her supposed prophecies?
She speaks of nothing but her own delusion, a mirage of her nightmares.
Through this mindless speak I hear only cowardice.
Earth-forsaken brother, what roots you above the ground?
[Cepheus ignores Corvus
O, this damned obstinacy. I pray that your cursed stubbornness has not doomed the lives of this hive. Come, Corvus. He will see his mistake and follow.
[Exit Worker Ants and Corvus to the tunnels, leaving Cepheus alone
[Exit Scene III
[Enter Queen, finding Cepheus alone
Cepheus, by the Earth! Why have you chosen to stand exposed to the terrors of Men!
Delusional Queen! I stand, unblinded, by your words of terror.
High noon had passed, yet where is the prophesized doom?
They are afraid, Queen.
They dare not march upon my land, and if they do,
I fear not those Men, nor their supposed wrath.
I had once emerged from the hooves of those Humans.
I stand tall. I was chosen by the Earth and Sky.
You name me delusional, yet you do not ponder.
Why has hives and hives of our people perished under the fury of those beings?
Death plagues all who dare oppose their will. And thus we shall not.
Do you not see the blood of our people with their every stomp, their every roar, their every breath?
Here, they approach,
Armed with that which produces floods worse than those engendered by the Sky.
You stand still and proud like a stone, but you are also as stubborn and asinine as one.
[Laughs and footsteps of Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos draws near
Very well. As you seek your own demise, you shall stand ground against the wrath of the gods.
Know that after you die, you will not be remembered as a hero, but rather a fool.
[Enter Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, squatting around the anthill, looming over Cepheus with water guns in hand
I fear you not, demons!
I dare you.
[Atropos unleashes water gun, flooding the anthill
[The Queen, Corvus, and the Worker Ants escape the flooded anthill, drenched and injured
Queen, spitting out water:
Oh, great despair!
Damned Cepheus, you have drawn those Men to us!
You have doomed us all!
How may I begin to name your sins?
Flee, Humans, flee!
I had been chosen by the almighty Earth!
I stand up against the demons and thus I live!
See courage, foolish Queen, foolish brother!
The Earth punishes your cowardice!
[Atropos walks beside the anthill to leave with Clotho and Lachesis
I am Cepheus!
I have escaped your damned prophecy!
[Shadow of Atropos’ foot looms over Cepheus
[Exit Scene IV