According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is basically a character who arises three key elements including emotional attachment, fear and pity. In the first account, the audience gets emotionally attached, secondly, they for fear what could happen to their hero and lastly, the audience is forced to pity for the suffering of the hero after trouble happens. Arguably, Oedipus Rex, a play by Sophocles and The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove loosely compare in many aspects but the most striking one is their character development. The roles played by key characters Oedipus and Augustus from Oedipus Rex and The Dark Face of the Earth respectively are very important in analysing as to whether they or they do not fulfil Aristotle’s definition of the tragic hero. From the two plays, both Oedipus the King and Augustus serve as good examples of a tragic hero.
First of all, Oedipus virtue and nobility makes him a respected member of the society, he is therefore royal and earns emotional attachment from the Greeks as the son of the King and Queen of Thebes (Laius and Jocasta). Additionally, he earns respects by solving the riddle of the Sphinx and he is offered power over the city by Creon, further increasing the respect and the emotional attachment from the audience.
When it comes to fear, the Oedipus has a “hamartia” (tragic flaw in Greek) that arises from his lack of knowledge/ information concerning his identity. This makes the audience to fear for him due to the fact that he can do nothing to control the situation and the outcome of the tragedy.
Finally, his demise generates a lot of pity from his audience. In the first instance, he blinds himself rather than committing suicide. Consequently, he attains some sought of surrogate death that increases his suffering. In the play, his suffering does not stop hence his downfall further elicits pity from the audience. To sum up the whole discussion, Oedipus meets the three parameters of a tragic hero, his complex and dynamic character leads to emotional attachment, due to his tragic flaws, the audience is to fear him devoid of losing any respect and finally his terrible punishment generates a lot of pity from his audience.
Other characters in the play view Oedipus as a sympathetic leader who demonstrates strong aspiration to bring an end to despair in the land “my heart must bear the strain of sorrow for all…” (4)”
Just like Oedipus, Augustus was not legitimate as he was born to a daughter of a white slave owner. In other words, he was a bastard child. At birth, he was taken away from his mother, and send away, leaving him to languish in the life of slavery. His flaw was pride, a fact that is comparable to Oedipus; he also thinks that he is the centre of his universe. He does not know his childhood and his parents. To fulfil Aristotle’s definition of tragic hero, first of all Augustus is emotionally attached to his audience through his being born to a daughter of the slave owner. Secondly, his pride makes people fear him while still respecting him and eventually, the fact that he does languishes in slavery and does not find the answer of his childhood and parenthood, the audience is forced to pity him.
Augustus greatly hates himself and has anger concerning himself as opposed to Oedipus. Due to more experience compared to ordinary slave, Augustus feels superior among the slaves when they arrive at Amalia’s plantation. Lastly the two compare because they do not notice the incestuous affair that they have with their mothers.