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Sight And Blindness In Oedipus Essay

Blindness and Sight in Oedipus the King - Lack of Vision

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Blindness in Oedipus the King


People can be “blinded” to the truth. The answer to their question or solution to their problem may have been obvious. Yet, they could not "see" the answer. They were blinded to the truth. Associations have been made between being blind and enlightened. A blind person is said to have powers to see invisible things. They "see" into the future. The blind may not have physical sight, but they have another kind of vision. In Sophocles' King Oedipus, Teiresias, the blind prophet, presents the truth to King Oedipus and Jocasta. Oedipus has been blinded to the truth his whole life. When he does find the truth, he loses his physical vision. Because of the truth, Oedipus blinds himself. Jocasta was blind to the true identity of Oedipus. Even when she found out the truth, she refused to accept it. In this case, those who are blind ultimately do have a higher vision - the truth.

Kind Oedipus started life with a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to avoid this fate, his parents, Laius and Jocasta, sent him into the mountains to die. However, a shepherd saved Oedipus. This shepherd gave Oedipus to Polybus and Merope. When Oedipus learned of his prophecy, he fled his home, thinking these people were his real parents. On his flight, he met Laius. He ended up killing Laius. He continued on, answered a riddle of the evil Sphinx, and ended up king of Thebes. With this kingdom, Oedipus married Jocasta. He had lived out the prophecy without even knowing he had. Thebes fell onto bad times, and a prophet put the blame on a polluter of the lands. Oedipus called on Teiresias, and Teiresias informed him that the polluter was the King. As Oedipus searched further and further, he discovered that he was the polluter and that the prophecy had come true. When Oedipus finally discovered the truth, he was so distressed that he ran pins into his eyes, blinding himself. He had been blinded to the truth for so long.

Oedipus was blind in more then one way. He was blind to the truth about his own life. Oedipus had no idea that his real parents were Laius and Jocasta. He was so blind that he got mad at anyone who was foolish enough to suggest such an idea.

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Sight         Vision         Blindness         Oedipus         Lack         Bad Times         Jocasta         King Oedipus         True Identity        




As more and more of the story started to fall into place, Oedipus was forced to open his eyes to the truth. Oedipus did kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus was the person causing the bad times in Thebes. As soon as Oedipus knew and accepted the truth, he blinded himself. Just as Teiresias was blind and open to the truth, so was Oedipus.

Oedipus was also physically blind. Oedipus' physical blindness played into the whole role of the Greek tragedy. The blindness completed the tragedy for Oedipus. Every Greek tragedy was supposed to end with the main characters experiencing their own, personal tragedy. For Oedipus, this tragedy was discovering the truth and becoming blind. It completed the prophecies that Oedipus received from the blind prophet, Teiresias. Teiresias told Oedipus that he had come into Thebes with his sight, but he would leave Thebes without it. Oedipus' physical blindness also left Oedipus to the wrongs of his life. With nothing to look at, Oedipus was forced to think about his life and what had happened. He was forced to deal with it. He had the blackness and the physical pain he had inflicted on himself as reminders and as punishment. Oedipus' physical blindness was just as painful as his blindness to the truth. Both were intertwined in each other.

Jocasta's blindness was different then Oedipus'. She knew about the prophecy, but she thought Oedipus was dead. She had no idea that she had married her son. As pieces of information came to point to the whole truth of the matter, Jocasta refused to accept what had really happened. She realized what had happened, and she knew that she had played a role in them. Her way of dealing with the whole deal was to kill herself. Jocasta's blindness ultimately led to her downfall.

Teiresias' blindness was of the physical nature. Teiresias played the role of the typical prophet in the Greek tragedy. He was physically blind, but he had vision into the future. When he presented the truth to Oedipus, Oedipus attacked his blindness. He told Teiresias that the only reason he was not blaming him for the whole situation was that Teiresias could not see. Oedipus used his blindness to prophesize that Oedipus would leave Thebes blind, poor, and shamed. This statement irritated Oedipus even more. Oedipus began to turn away from the idea of a prophet and seeing into the future. Teiresias' physical blindness led to Oedipus' physical blindness.

Figurative blindness can be harder to deal with then literal blindness. A person who is physically blind knows that he will probably be blind the rest of his life. That person will learn to deal with the blindness. However, if a person is blind to the truth, there is nothing that person can do until they learn the truth. The person may not even know that he is wrong. When the person does learn the truth, he tends to feel ignorant. The person wonders if things could have been avoided had the truth only been known. For Oedipus and Jocasta in Sophocles' King Oedipus, this scenario was just the case. When Oedipus learned the truth, his way of dealing with his figurative blindness was to blind himself. When Jocasta learned the truth, her way of dealing with her figurative blindness was to kill herself. In this play, blindness led to the truth, and the truth led to blindness. Oedipus, Teiresias, and Jocasta were all blind, yet all found the truth.



I'm writing an essay that is supposed to make an argument as to what the overall message or theme of the play is. I would really like if someone could help me with making my thesis stronger and help me with points that would make the essay a lot stronger. I know I have to go and put in more citations than what is already in it. Thanks ahead of time for your help.

Author Samuel Butler once wrote, "A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide." Even people that have great vision and can literally "see," can still be "blind" to truth and complete understanding of it. Throughout the tragedy Oedipus the King, Sophocles' repeatedly bring up the idea of sight and uses it as a metaphor for insight and knowledge. The protagonist of the play, Oedipus, is "blind" to the fact that the fate that he had tried so hard to avoid, had come true without him knowing of it, while the physically blind prophet Tiresias was the one who can actually "see" and understand the truth and the actions that had already occurred.

When Oedipus was just a baby he was taken away from Thebes to be left on a barren mountain to die after an oracle had told his father Laius, "that doom would strike him down at the hands of a son"(1176). The shepherd who was instructed to kill baby Oedipus, felt sorry for the newborn and figured that it would be just as effective to let the baby grow up in a far away city, so that he would never know or meet his biological parents. The shepherd took him to the city of Corinth where he was raised by Polybus and Merope, members of the royal family. Laius and Jocasta assumed that there baby was killed but never went and sought for proof. This reluctance to think that someone might have pity on a baby that is only days old contributed to the inability to know the truth. Oedipus grew up believing that the royal family of Corinth was his biological family and was never told that he was adopted. This is the first instance where it is apparent that Oedipus himself was truly "blind" to the truth of his history that would ultimately lead him to create his own demise.

Later in Oedipus' life, he overheard a drunken man say that he was not his father's son. After telling who he thought was his real parents the man's claim, they assured him it was false and mad at the man who spoke those words. Oedipus was satisfied but still went to see an oracle. The oracle told him, "You are fated to couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see- you will kill your father, the one who gave you life!" (1178) Oedipus scared of what he heard left Corinth never to return so that this prophesy had no way of coming true. On his journey away from Corinth he was harassed by a group of travelers and he had to kill the group singlehandedly in self-defense. He came to Thebes who had just had their king murdered at a crossroads and was busy trying to solve the riddle of the sphinx. The citizens of Thebes inability to solve the riddle caused them to not seek out their past leaders killer. Oedipus quickly solved the riddle once arriving in the city and the citizens were so impressed with his knowledge and insight that Oedipus was named King of Thebes. By being praised and being seen as a role model, caused him to believe that he was superior to most. This cockiness continued to contribute to his blindness of the situation that had occurred. You would think that a new king would ask questions about a preceding ruler especially one that was murdered. He married Jocasta, unknowingly that she was his biological mother.. Oedipus was "blinded" to the fact that the prophecy that he worked so hard to avoid had come true without anyone's knowledge of what damage had already occurred.

Later on, the city of Thebes was suffering from a horrendous plague that would only go away if the murderer of Thebes' previous king, Laius, was either killed or banished from the city. The citizens had great respect and confidence in their current king Oedipus, and begged him for help so they would not die like so many others that already had from the plague. Oedipus sends for a physically blind prophet named Tiresias to disclose to him everything that he knows about the murder of Laius.

Tiresias immediately recognizes Oedipus when he arrives in Corinth and refuses to tell him what he knows. Oedipus gets upset with the blind prophet and mocks him by saying things such as, " Tiresias tells him, "You are the curse, the corruption of the land!" Oedipus is quick to call Tiresias a liar and the prophet is quick to counter by saying:

So,
you mock my blindness?
Let me tell you this.
You with your precious eyes,
you're blind to the corruption of your life,
to the house you live in, those you live with-
who are your parents? Do you know? All unknowing
you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood
It is at this time Oedipus is informed of what might be although he still is extremely doubtful. Oedipus begins to question his own knowledge of the truth for the first time. He realizes that he may have been mistaken his entire life.

Oedipus goes to his wife Jocasta to tell of the events that had just occurred. He was informed that there was a survivor of the group that was with Laius at the time of his murder. Oedipus demanded that the survivor come back to Corinth and tell him if he was Laius' killer. The man returned to Corinth and immediately recognized Oedipus as the murderer of Laius. Jocasta was so sickened with the fact that the horrible prophecy that she thought she eliminated years before had come true, that she hanged herself. When Oedipus found her dead body, he took the pins out of her robe and stabbed his eyes so he would not see the harm that he had caused due to blindness of knowledge and truth behind his own history.

Although Oedipus was renowned for his knowledge and insight, his "blindness" of the truth about his past had caused him to have the same fate, as was prophesized in his early years. Although his father, mother, and himself did everything they thought they could do to make sure it did not occur, Oedipus true lack of knowledge led to his own downfall and the downfall of his own family. Whether fate can be avoided or not, depends on the ability "see" and understand the truth.

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