Sight vs. Blindness The concept of sight versus blindness mentioned throughout Sophocles’ famous work Oedipus Rex is truly representative of the idea of knowledge versus ignorance, and is used by this playwright to highlight the ignorance and tragic self-discovery of Oedipus. Many of Sophocles’ characters, including the king himself, incorporate this motif of light versus darkness into their analysis of both Oedipus and the situation at hand. Many statements made by Oedipus in this play show not only the conflict between others’ knowledge and his ignorance, but also the irony of what he believes o be true.
Clear vision or having sight serves as a metaphor for insight and knowledge. Oedipus is obviously not “seeing clearly’ or better worded – he is blind, metaphorically. He doesn’t see the error of his ways or acknowledge the fact that he killed his father (although he didn’t know that was his father) or the men that his father was with. He refuses to accept anyone else’s ideas or opinions on the matter. This is also how he is metaphorically blind. People who can “see” take in to consideration all the surrounding details, not Just what they want to see/believe.
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People are slow to acknowledge that Oedipus is blind to many things because when he became king he was elected based on his quick- comprehension and clear – sightedness and throughout the play he keeps the people deceived by saying things like “My poor children, what you desire is known to me and not unknown, for I see well that everyone is sick. (lines 63-65). ” When he finally is able to see the error of his ways and is no longer blind to his injustice’s he does the most ironic thing Sophocles’ could think of and he ends up blinding himself literally.
The prophet Tiresias, on the other hand, although literally blind, “sees” the truth and relays what is revealed to him to Oedipus. Oedipus who is still so blind in his ways refuses to believe Tiresias. Though this motif of seeing and not seeing is laced throughout the beginning of the play, it first becomes crystal clear at this point. It would be very difficult to miss the irony at this point in the play. Teiresias is literally blind, but he can see clearly the horror that is Oedipus’s past, present, and future.
Teiresias even says to Oedipus “l ill reply, since you reproach me as blind: You, even though you see clearly, do not see the scope of your evil, nor where you live, nor with whom you dwell. ” (lines 432-435) Oedipus’s eyes work Just fine, but unfortunately he’s completely blind to the dreadful fate the gods have placed upon him. The doomed king’s ignorance on this key matter is made even more ironic by the fact that he was made famous for his keen insight, by solving the riddle of the Sphinx.
When Oedipus finally sees the horrible truth of his life, Sophocles emphasizes his etaphor by having the king stab out his own eyes. Oedipus says he does this because he can no longer look on the horrors that his ignorant actions have created. With this final act, Oedipus literally becomes the thing he’s always metaphorically been: blind. The irony involving Oedipus and Teiresias throughout the play brings the play to a whole. Without it there would be no reason for Oedipus to blind himself be the fall of Oedipus, so that everyone could see that Oedipus was blind all along and was never who they believed him to be.
Sophocles never intended for the motif of sight vs. blindness to be hard to recognize. He literally mentions the words “see,” “sight,” “vision,” “eyes,” and “blind” over a hundred times. This was one of Sophocles main points for people to recognize when seeing or reading the play, and I agree with him that it is very important and influential. People should live their lives really seeing things and not being blind to things that they don’t want believe and Sophocles demonstrated that through the character Oedipus.