I’m working on a English exercise and need support.
This city – it’s just borders and beliefs. It’s about the old ways here. In this barrio – we still lay hands and kill chickens and go to church and do what the shaman says. Look at the way we look, like our ancestors. We haven’t changed. This ain’t downtown – it’s the borderlands. This is the way we live. You might think you have the power to make the world you want to make, but there’s someone upstairs pulling your strings. You know that? You think you got here on your own? We all got destiny. We all got a story that was written for us a long time ago. We’re just characters in a book. We’re already history and we just started living. Our story has already been told. Were fated. (75)
Jocasta defines herself and her people in the barrio as traditional people who follow the old religion which is highly deterministic. Oedipus has studied religions in the prison library and rejects the Gods of all religions. This is the central conflict in both their relationship and the play. Oedipus and Jocasta have just met and Oedipus declares that he doesn’t believe in God and that he only believes in “Me” (74) and that he will not need “God’s help” (76) to make himself “a God.” (76). Jocasta is horrified and views this position as blasphemy, as “a little boy thing,” (76) but she has had a pretty raw deal from the Gods. Her child was taken from her, and she believes he is dead. Her husband has been murdered. She understands how hard life is and that you get “comfort” (76) from God even though they are “pulling your strings.” (75) Jocasta knows the people and their traditions and that is necessary to “bow your head in reverence” (105) to rule as el Rey in the barrio. But Oedipus is a good looking guy, Jocasta is lonely and, well, three months later they emerge from the bedroom with their central conflict unresolved. The passage foreshadows the horrific climax when a traditional oracle speaks to everyone and tells them their little boy King has murdered their old King, Oedipus’s father, and married his mother, fulfilling the prophecy. Jocasta is forced to face and defend her “beliefs.” (120) “He pulls strings so tight, this God, how can we move when we’re trapped?” (120), Jocasta says and knows their “petty” (121) God will kill them “unless we own up to our sins.” (121) This passage shows what the people in the neighborhood are like and contrasts their beliefs against the ambition of Oedipus who does not believe in their God or traditions, but only in himself. Tragically, Jocasta is put in the middle.
Question # 2: Pride/arrogance can be 2 sides of the same coin. In the original play, it is often said that Oedipus’s “hubris” [Greek word for arrogance] and his belief that he could outwit the prophecy causes his downfall. How is the pride/arrogance of our Oedipus el Rey treated in this play? To what extent is it portrayed in a negative or positive light here? Is it a “tragic flaw” or a redeeming quality? Both?
Oedipus believes that he was meant for greater things and that he should be el Rey. He prepares. He reads books in the prison library and completes his GED. He works out and learns to “throw the first punch.” (6). He marries Queen Jocasta and becomes Rey of the barrio. Jocasta is unconcerned about his arrogance because “show me a King that doesn’t become seduced by the power of becoming a God. “(113) But his arrogance is his downfall. He knew half the prophecy about himself, that he would kill his father, and believed he could avoid it. He could become a God. Even when the catastrophe arrived he still believed he could “find the curse and break it,” (121) until Jocasta points out “we are the curse.” (121).
Question # 5: The theme of faith/beliefs/religion runs throughout the play: What point does Alfaro seem to be making about it and what makes you say so?
Oedipus has studied all religions and rejects them all; Jocasta and all the people in the barrio where he rules as el Rey stick with the traditional long-held values of their culture. It provides them “comfort” (76) and prophetically “when it’s you in the darkness – that’s when you are going to want to speak with him.” (76) Alfaro seems to be saying that religion doesn’t always make sense. God can be “petty.” (121) Conversely, religion, traditions and the coming together of people in congregations has value and supports people in times of oppression, poverty and sorrow. There is plenty of that in