Two and Three: the Significance of Numbers

First off, let’s juxtapose the numbers two and three. Well, two is an entire number away from three. There’s a positive amount of two, and then there’s a positive amount of three. A positive amount of two would be two pies. A positive number of three would be three cakes. To contrast the positive, there are negative amounts of two and negative amounts of three. A negative amount of two would be two of your children no longer care about you. A negative amount of three would be three deaths of your kin.

To compare them, they’re both numbers, and if you want to get technical, they’re both real, whole numbers. But then there’s the not so obvious comparison: they all deal with Oedipus, former king of Thebes who killed his father and married his mother.

(Side Note: If you haven’t read Oedipus Rex or Oedipus at Colonus, then this will make little to no sense to you. Read on if you’d like, but this lacks a real explanation of the entire story.)


After Oedipus saw Iocaste dead, he grabbed the pin of her brooch and stabbed his two eyes out. His blindness was guided throughout Greece by the help of his two faithful daughters. However, when he left Thebes, his two sons abandoned him in his time of need and only tried to take over what he left.


3 roads

Three deaths occurred over the time span Oedipus discovered the oracle came true, his biological father’s, his father’s and his mother’s. When Oedipus killed his biological father, he was at the place where three roads met. The prayer that would allow Oedipus to close his eyes in peace in the grove of the Furies included libations that were to be poured into three streams.

I think it’s interesting how numbers can play such a significant role in bringing contrasting things together. The number two is a contrast between his sons and daughters. His sons were greedy, took advantage of him and lacked sympathy for their father’s fate. His daughters however were grateful, selfless and loyal to Oedipus. The number three symbolizes the beginning and end to Oedipus’ torture and shame from the curse of the House of Thebes. A theme in the story I’ve noticed is that although so many things that have happened to Oedipus, he’s always has a contrast to the negative.



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