Perfect families exist only in situation comedies and not in the real world. Unfortunately, far too many families are dysfunctional, which as the description implies, have deep-seated problems that prevent them from functioning normally. This was a popular theme for Greek tragedians and no one depicted it more poignantly than Sophocles during the fifth century B.C. The popular Greek dramatist could have also been a successful family psychologist as this insightful play Oedipus the King reveals. .
Sophocles brings an added dimension to the ancient tragedy by introducing the element of family dysfunction into the dramatic mix. While Oedipus did not realize he had committed both patricide and incest, his disturbing dreams (which were famously analyzed by Sigmund Freud in Interpretation of Dreams, in which the phrase "Oedipus Complex" was coined) were his subconscious's way of telling him something was terribly wrong. When Oedipus revealed the content of his disturbing dreams to Jocasta, her response was,.
What should a man fear? It's all chance, chance rules our lives. Not a man on earth can see a day ahead, grouping through the dark. Better to live at random, best we can. And as for this marriage with your mother - have no fear. Many a man before you, in his dreams, has shared his mother's bed. Take such things for shadows, nothing at all - Live, Oedipus, as if there's no tomorrow! (Fagles 524).
Although Sophocles penned "Oedipus the King" more than 2,500 years ago, the family dysfunction, which occupied center stage then, is still an unfortunate reality for too many in the twenty-first century. Oedipus claimed to have no recollection of his biological parents, the memories were stored deep within his self-conscious. Laius was supposedly haunted by dreams that his new son was going to kill him so he had the baby's feet and ankles bound (which is the origin of the name Oedipus) and banished him out into the wilderness, isolated and completely alone.