Like Morpheus, the Oracle is a trusted figure of wisdom and guidance who helps Neo make sense of his mission, but the actual scope of her powers is never quite clear. At times, she seems to be able to control the future, while at other times she seems able only to predict it or offer possibilities. In either case, her prophecies suggest that the future is predetermined and, therefore, that Neo and the others have no free will. However, her powers and her role evolve throughout the trilogy, as does our understanding of her. Eventually, we may question whether she truly knows anything about the future, or if she is instead simply a good judge of character. The discovery that the Oracle is actually a program, part of the Matrix itself, complicates our understanding of her abilities even further. Ultimately, her calm and comforting demeanor may help Neo and the others with their mission almost as much as an actual prophecy would or does.
The Wachowskis adapted their Oracle from the mythical Oracle at Delphi, who, according to legend, once declared Socrates the wisest man in the land. Socrates responded that if he was wise, it was only because he knew nothing. Neo, too, is aware of his own ignorance, and the inscription over the Oracle’s door, “Know Thyself,” suggests that self-knowledge is of the utmost importance. The Oracle in the Matrix films isn’t as grand or as awe-inspiring as the Oracle of ancient Greece, however. Where the ancient Oracle sat over a chasm in a three-pronged seat, inhaling hallucinatory vapors from the depths of the earth that were believed to be the breath of Apollo, here the Oracle sits on a three-legged stool in her tenement apartment and breathes in the smell of cookies baking in the oven.