From Oedipus to Mr.Kane

Before jumping into Arts One, I took a few FIST100 lessons and studied Citizen Kane, one of the greatest productions in the world. After reading Oedipus the King I realize it’s similar with Citizen Kane in story, structure and the way it connects to “seeing and knowing”. Both of them convey that, seeing cannot directly equal to knowing. As it’s incomplete without exploration.

Although Oedipus might disagree, what he sees is fragmentary. For example, the parents he can see are Polybos and Merope, who in fact not belong to him. When he finally finds out the fact he says “I, Oedipus, I am the child of parents who should never been mine.” (P77 Line 1494-1496)* Then he finds the truth of murder, his wife and the plague of his city. The shepherd’s narration reveals the crimes of Oedipus and supplies what he could not see. Actually, supplements provided by different roles gradually disclose actual meaning of the oracles. With these supplements, Oedipus and audience (even they know the storyline previously) are able to approach the truth.

Citizen Kane is also a movie composed by memories from different people. Kane’s guardian records his childhood, the colleagues witness the growth of his business, Susan remembers their marriage and the butler knows how this wealthy and influential man spends rest of his life in loneliness. The unique charm of this movie comes from the complexity of its structure. Audience could easily state that they know enough information about this man at any point. But after a new narration, they realize there could be something more. Various versions of Kane’s life accumulatively draw up his image.

The common part of Mr. Kane and Oedipus is that they used to have everything but finally lose. Tragedies happen because they trying to pursue some unreachable goals. For Oedipus, that goal is to break the oracles and control his own life. For Mr. Kane, that goal is to love and beloved. Another typical case is Great Gatsby, a character immediately jumps  into my mind every time I study the play. The American dream of Gatsby seems so near yet so far and he fails to achieve that as well. Tragedy is a form to present beauty, which is desperate but magnificent. The identical fates and failures of these characters obviously demonstrate the beauty of tragedy.

The way Oedipus the King and Citizen Kane manage to tell a story is analogous. Under the leading of a mystery thread (for the play the thread is Liao’s death, for the movie is Kane’s last word), clues from diverse perspectives are given one by one. However, in this process, audience who can see everything will never “know” the truth until the last moment. Just like Oedipus has never questioned himself until the shepherd finally confirms everything.

This is the myth of seeing and knowing. We could never know whether seeing is enough for us to know. If we make conclusions in the half way and consider that as “knowing”, we lose the opportunities to approach truth. We have to see more, to investigate more from multiple dimensions. It’s journey start with a single clue but probably never end.


*The paginating is base on kindle version


From Selina: Thank you for reading to this line! Please feel free to tell me if there is any unclear expression or inappropriate grammar in the post. As I am still learning English writing, your opinion will be extremely helpful for me. You could either leave a comment or send me an email (especially when you want to discuss the viewpoint) : I really appreciate your kindness and patience.

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