Critical Thinking Media Competence

Oedipus Complex—Group 2

I. Historical Background

The history of Oedipus takes place in the ancient Greek myths in the City of Thebes.

Oedipus is born as the great-great-grandson of the founder of Thebes, Kadmos. So he is the son of the king of Thebes, Laios, and his wife Iokaste. As an oracle announces his parents, that king Laios will be killed by his own son, they decide to command a shepherd to abandon the baby in the wild where the baby is supposed to die. However, the shepherd cannot execute his order and hands over the child to man in attendance of the king of Corinth, Thebes’ neighbour city.

Due to the fact that the king of Corinth, Polybos, is childless, he raises Oedipus as his own son. Polybos and his wife decided to maintain silence about Oedipus real identity. After doubts aroused in Oedipus’ mind about his past, he decides to travel to Delphi, to ask the oracle for truth. Unfortunately, the oracle does not give him an answer concerning his question but tells him instead the prophecy, that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother. To avoid this, Oedipus decides to not return to Corinth and heads on to Thebes.

While his real father, Laios, and his company are on their way to Delphi, they meet on a tight crossroad. As the cause of an impolite treatment of one of Laios’ servants and the Laios himself, the situation escalates and Oedipus kills everyone except for one servant who can escape.

Arriving in Thebes, he is able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx which terrorized the city for a long time. As he put the city out of his misery he is crowned as new king and marries Iokaste, not being aware of marrying his own mother.

After a long and wealthy period, a series of catastrophes made the brother of Iokaste, Kreon, to ask for advice at the oracle of Delphi. There he is told that as long as the murderer of king Laios lives in the city of Thebes there would be no end. Because of this, Oedipus wants to find out who murdered king Laios. To solve this, he asks for help from the seer Teiresias who first hesitates but then names Oedipus as the murderer of king Laios. In first instance, Oedipus beliefs in a conspiracy of Kreon and Teiresias who want to take over the power. But after the only living servant who accompanied Laios on his travel to Delphi is questioned, it turns out that Oedipus is the murderer of his own father. The final evidence is given owing to the fact that the servant is the same shepherd, who did not obey the order of Laios and Iokaste to abandon Oedipus in the wild when he was a baby. Knowing the truth, Iokaste commits suicide and Oedipus dazzles himself in order to avoid seeing the world again. As a blind old man, he spends the last years of his live in Kolonos, a suburb of Athens.

II. Sigmund Freund’s Psychoanalysis about the Oedipus Complex

Sigmund Freud was born in 1856 and is considered to be the originator of Psychoanalysis.

He proposed that every individual goes through its psychological development during the childhood, which takes place in a couple of fixed stages that he defined.

They are called psychosexual stages, because each stage represents a special area of the human body.

According to Freud, the individual has to resolve a conflict in each stage, before he can successfully advance to the next one.


The definition of the Oedipus complex can be found in the phallic stage.

It is the third stage and comes after the oral stage (birth to 18 months), in which the child is focused on oral pleasures such as sucking and exploring its surroundings with its mouth, and the anal stage (18 months to three years), in which the child has to learn to control anal stimulation.


Freud defined, that the phallic stage takes place from the third to the fifth year of age. The pleasure zone switches to the genitals.

The Oedipus complex is the main topic during this stage. It is named after Oedipus because he killed his father by accident as a young man and married his own mother later.


Sigmund Freud's idea was, that boys situated in this psychosexual stage develop sexual desires for their mothers. Freud believed that therefore the child sees his father as a rival for the mother's affection.

The consequence is that the young boy also develops fear to be punished by the father and to be castrated, because of the feelings for his mother.

The term Electra complex has been used to describe similar feelings experienced by young girls, however Freud believed that girls experience penis envy.

In order to develop a healthy relationship to the parents the child must identify with the same-sex parent. One the one hand the child wants to eliminate the parent while on the other hand the child knows that the parent is much stronger.


As soon as the phallic stage ends the conflicts are resolved. The following stages are the latency period and later the genital stage.


Down to the present day, Freud's five stages of psychosexual development are often criticized. Especially the Oedipus complex is a controversial topic and Freud's self-attempts, studies and observations were often debated.


III. Conclusion

We can see, the Oedipus complex is a serious psychoanalysis theory referred to a Greece myth. This theory by the most important and most recognized psychologist, Sigmund Freud, is controversial, because neither it can be proved right nor proved wrong. That’s it what makes this story topical. In times of social media, information overload and especially not back-upped journalism you should think about falsification. A lot of information and theories occurred in the Internet and are spread by social media and incompetent journalism. Therefore, raise awareness of believing in trustworthy and academic sources. Think about falsification, think critically and be media competent.






Sources :

⁃  "Was ist Psychoanalyse? : eine Einführung in die Lehre von Sigmund Freud”  / Ernest Jones. - München : Goldmann, 1967

⁃  "Freud-Handbuch : Leben - Werk - Wirkung” / Hans-Martin Lohmann. - Sonderausg. - Stuttgart [u.a.] : Metzler, 2013

⁃  Sources: Griechische Mythologie: Quellen und Deutung, Graves, Robert von, Reinbech bei Hamburg, Rowohl-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1960, S. 131-143