The Use of Blindness in Oedipus Rexes Authors often use blindness both metaphorically and literally to describe their characters. In Oedipus Rexes, Sophocles begins the play with literally blind Thebe’s suffering from a plague that their metaphorically blind king has brought upon them. Oedipus, being the king, is trying to help his blind Thebe’s. In doing this, he blindly curses the murderer of the late King Alias for bringing this plague, not knowing that the murderer is himself. When Sophocles introduces the theme of blindness in Oedipus Rexes the plot gets more complicated as the characters are made aware of their blindness.
An important display of blindness is between the literally blind prophet, Terrifies, and the metaphorically blind Oedipus. In scene one, lines 287-449, Terrifies and Oedipus dialogue about the true murderer of Alias as well as the true identity of Oedipus’ parents. In the beginning Oedipus humbly asks the blind prophet to inform himself and the Thebe’s about the murderer of King Alias. As the conversation goes on, Terrifies makes it known that he knows more about Oedipus than Oedipus knows about himself. Terrifies finally comes out with, “l say that you are the murderer whom you seek” (l. 7). Oedipus then believes that Terrifies is lying and foolish, to which Terrifies says, “Listen to me. 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 whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You do not know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth and in the world below” (I. 398-404). Oedipus, still blind, dismisses this idea and Terrifies without a thought. Croon, Oedipus’ brother-in-law, continues to try to help Oedipus throughout the play.
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He is he person who advised Oedipus to consult with Terrifies about the murderer of Alias. His only goal is to help Oedipus and the Thebe’s out of their turmoil. As the play goes on, Oedipus becomes suspicious of Croon, thinking that he wants to steal Oedipus’ power as king. Croon explains that he would not want the stress and responsibility of being the king and does not wish to replace Oedipus. Oedipus continues to blindly accuse Croon and dismiss his help. Croon and Terrifies are proven correct when the shepherd finally confirms that Oedipus is indeed the murderer and the son of his own wife.
In the end, when Oedipus has become aware of how metaphorically blind he has been, and learns the truth, he finds the need to be literally blind. He stabs his eyes out in order to escape the truth of what he has done. Not only did he kill his father and marry his mother, but he also has kids that he has discovered are also his siblings. He can no longer handle the world around him and the fact that he has fulfilled his terrible prophecy. This raises the question of who is actually blind, the metaphorically blind or the literally blind who in fact, know the truth.
In Oedipus Rexes, Sophocles sees the idea of blindness to complicate the plot by showing the struggle between the metaphorically blind characters and the literally blind characters. A blind prophet tries to rid Oedipus of his metaphorical blindness but fails at his attempt. Oedipus blindly accuses Croon of trying to steal his power, when he is simply trying to enlighten Oedipus of his wrong doings. When Oedipus finally grows aware of how blind and oblivious he has been, he makes himself literally blind. Oedipus Rexes makes the reader wonder if it is better to be literally blind and aware, or metaphorically blind and unaware.