The unraveling of the unknown criminal’s identity forms the crux of the story. The plot is muddled by conflicting accounts and double images. In the end, Oedipus finds out the sad truth about himself: that he has killed his own father; that he is both husband and son to Jocasta, and; that he has sired not only his sons and daughters but also his brothers and sisters. The unraveling of the true identity of Oedipus, an identity that turns out to be multiple, viz. father, son, husband, and brother, is a conflict of “the one and the many” that characterizes this Sophocles’ tragedy.
The “one and the many” conflict is initially established when the death of King Laius, the first husband of Queen Jocasta and the previous king of Thebes, is introduced into the play. The discovery of Laius’ murder becomes essential to lift the plague that beset the city of Thebes. The seeds of suspicion, on both the part of the reader and Oedipus, begin to grow at the entrance of the blind prophet Tiresias whom Oedipus badgers to reveal the identity of the murderer. Tiresias’ hesitation to reveal the murderer’s identity leads the reader to think that something is afoot. This suspicion is given reality when the blind prophet is finally forced to reveal that Oedipus is the curse who caused Thebes’ plague because he is the murderer of the king. This is compounded by Tiresias’ additional allegation, told in riddles, that the murderer of Laius was his own son. Moreover, the same murderer has married his own mother and sired his own brothers and sisters. At this stage, however, the suspicion against Oedipus does not carry much weight because the play begins in the present time and the reader has not yet been apprised of the history of Oedipus and his family. Oedipus himself was furious at the accusations against him and firmly suspects them to be a plot against him.