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This papers topic is on Sight and Blindness in the play Oedipus Rex - Essay Example

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How are blind people able to see beyond what sighted people are not able to see? This is a prominent theme in the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. We are witness to the…
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This papers topic is on Sight and Blindness in the play Oedipus Rex
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The Theme of Sight and Blindness in Oedipus Rex Does the physical ability to ‘see’, necessarily mean that what you do see, is true or even real? How are blind people able to see beyond what sighted people are not able to see? This is a prominent theme in the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. We are witness to the metaphorical ‘blindness’ of Oedipus in his inability to realize the true and accept his fate until the end of the play, as well as the physical blindness of Tiresias, the only character who has the wisdom to see and accept the true identity of Oedipus. Most importantly, sight is used in the play as a symbol for knowledge. In light of this, it can be said that being sighted or blind does not necessarily correspond with the ability to control ones fate. It may be assumed that having the ability to see makes it easier to control fate, however, in Oedipus Rex, it is clearly evident that between physical and intellectual blindness, it is the latter which seems to allow for a more truthful vision of one’s destiny.
Oedipus, the protagonist, is arrogant and intellectually blind. It is this arrogance and blindness which actually cause him to eventually fulfill the fate he so desperately tries to escape from. He begins his life with a prophecy from the gods; that one day he will kill his father and marry his mother. In a desperate attempt to avoid this terrible fate, his parents send him into the mountains to die. However, a shepherd saves Oedipus and the child is adopted by Polybus and Merope, the King and Queen of Corinth. While Oedipus was completely unaware of the prophecy during this time, he was safe from fulfilling his terrible destiny. Ironically, it is only when he begins to see the truth that he begins to approach his fate. As he becomes aware of the prophecy, he flees from home for safety in the hopes of avoiding his destiny. However, in doing so, he achieves the opposite; while fleeing Corinth, he meets his real father, King Laius, and kills him. He then makes his way to Thebes where he marries his real mother, Jocasta, and also brings a plague into the city. These events are hugely ironic, because if Oedipus had never become aware of the truth, he could have stayed blissfully ignorant, and safe from fulfilling his destiny. Alternatively, if Oedipus had been aware of the full truth from the beginning he could have potentially avoided his fate. His arrogance is further displayed when he declares that he will find the Kings killer so he can save the town from the plague, unaware that he himself is the killer.
We can see that throughout the play, Oedipus is searching for the truth about his past, a truth that is right in front of him, which is told by Tiresias: “I say that you are the murderer whom you seek”, but Oedipus is displeased with this and accuses Tiresias and Creon of trying to overthrow him. He also mocks the physical blindness of Tiresias, who acts as a foil, which again is ironic as Oedipus will eventually switch roles with him and lose his sense of sight at the end of the play. In response to this mocking, Tiresias states, “You mock my blindness do you? But I say that you with both your eyes are blind: You cannot see the wretchedness of your life, nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You dont even know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth and in the world below”, and “Out of this land someday, with only night upon your precious eyes.” It is here we can see that ‘true’ sight is a symbol for knowledge, when Oedipus finally sees the truth of his past, he then immediately chooses to blind himself, perhaps as a symbol for the ignorance he once had. It is here that he truly does control his own destiny as it is his decision to blind himself, though this action remains the only thing Oedipus was able to control regarding his fate.
Jocastas blindness was different from Oedipus’. She knew about the prophecy, but was sure that her only son was long dead. Whereas Oedipus is ignorant of the truth which stands in front of him, and refuses to listen to the advice of the blind Tiresias, Jocasta has reason to be metaphorically blind to the truth; she gave her son away to die as a child, therefore her lack of vision stems from reason as opposed to arrogance or ignorance. Though she is careless in not ensuring that the child was killed by witnessing it herself, she can be forgiven for making the assumption, as there was no reason for her to think otherwise. Unfortunately, she didn’t know that the man to whom had just married was her son. Again, irony is used as it was the action of giving her son away to avoid fate, which led this fate to be fulfilled. As pieces of information come together, and the whole truth of the matter is revealed, it is at this moment that Jocasta refuses to accept what has really happened and tries to blind herself, as she thinks she has played a role in the fulfillment of the prophecy. But the sin is too shameful and the truth too horrible for her to accept, that her only way of coping is to kill herself.
In conclusion, the play brings up the point that intellectual blindness is worse than physical blindness; because a physically blind person, such as Tiresias, knows that he can see truth and possess wisdom without sight, while the intellectually blind person does not even know he is blind, and cannot do anything about it since he is utterly unaware of his disadvantage and will almost always remain ignorant. Did Oedipus fear the horrible truth so much that he chose not to see it? Or was it his arrogance that made him so blind to the truth? Either way, it seems that intellectual blindness is a far worse infliction than physical blindness, made even worse by arrogance, as Oedipus Rex highlights. Read More
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