A Comparative Study of Oedipus and Chinatown

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There are many common ties between the ancient story, Oedipus the King, and the 1974 film, Chinatown. Many of the similarities between these stories are easily understood, while some require deeper study. Oedipus, who is the lead character in Oedipus the King, and Jake Gittes, who is the main character in Chinatown, are both men who are living in corrupt cities, and are determined to seek out the truth, at any cost. As John Fawell states in his article, Cruel Fates: Parallels Between Roman
Polanski's Chinatown and Sophocles's Oedipus Rex, states, "...the most fruitful analogies to make between these two works are, I think, those between the works' two heroes." (179) Both Oedipus and Jake Gittes are running from their fate. Oedipus is running from a prophecy given to him by an oracle, which warns that he is going to kill his father and marry his mother, while Jake Gittes is running from his past in
Chinatown. Exactly what Jake is running from is unclear, but it is implied that he contributed to the death of the woman he loved. Cruel Fates...states, "...he had fallen in love with a woman in Chinatown and tried to help her, only to end up (we don't know how) contributing to her death." (179) "Fawell later states, in the same article, "Jake is not only fleeing Chinatown's mysterious corruption, but his responsibility to fight that corruption. A responsibility that will return to him like an old disease, when he takes on
Evelyn Mulraye's case." (179-180)

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