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Oedipus Rex Essay Blindness

"I See," Said The Blind Man

Sophocles certainly wasn't shy about the motif of sight vs. blindness. If you've got way too much time on your hands (or want to write an awesome essay) go through the play and highlight words like "see," "sight," "vision," "eyes," and "blind." Since this motif is symbolic of the pursuit of "knowledge," you can go ahead add that word, along with terms like "oracle," "truth," "prophecy," and "Apollo," since he's the god that represents all these ideas.

The Oracle of Shmoop predicts that your highlighter will run out of ink, and your book will end up looking like a neon patchwork quilt.

Though this motif of seeing and not seeing is laced throughout the beginning of the play, it first becomes crystal clear when the prophet Teiresias hobbles on stage. If one of Sophocles' ancient audience members missed the irony in this episode, he must've visited the wine stand a few too many times.

Teiresias is literally blind, but he can see clearly the horror that is Oedipus' past, present, and future. Oedipus' 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.

In fact, Oedipus gets peevish with Teiresias and calls into question his powers as a "seer" because he failed to see through the Sphinx's mind-game:

This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind. Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk? And yet the riddle was not to be solved By guess-work but required the prophet's art; Wherein thou wast found lacking; neither birds Nor sign from heaven helped thee, but I came, The simple Oedipus; I stopped her mouth. (389-398)

Oh, the irony.

When Oedipus finally sees the terrible truth of his life, Sophocles hammers home his metaphor 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 unwitting actions have created.

With this most famous of gougings (at least until Game of Thrones brought them back into vogue) Oedipus literally becomes the thing he's always metaphorically been: blind. At the end of the play, Oedipus becomes symbolic of all of humanity, stumbling forward through a dark and unknowable universe.

Blindness In Oedipus The King Essay

725 Words3 Pages

Blindness plays a two-fold part in Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus the King.'; First, Sophocles presents blindness as a physical disability affecting the auger Teiresias, and later Oedipus; but later, blindness comes to mean an inability to see the evil in one’s actions and the consequences that ensue. The irony in this lies in the fact that Oedipus, while gifted with sight, is blind to himself, in contrast to Teiresias, blind physically, but able to see the evil to which Oedipus has fallen prey to. Tragically, as Oedipus gains the internal gift of sight, he discards his outward gift of sight. Sight, therefore, seems to be like good and evil, a person may only choose one.
     Teiresias,…show more content…

Yet what distinguishes Teiresias from the others was his genuine concern for others – a concern that he voiced before demolishing Oedipus in front of the growing crowd outside of the palace. For Teiresias, the choice was simple – he chose to forego his disability and delve deeper into himself in order to find a sight that surpassed his physical limitations, a sight destined for good.
     Oedipus, on the other hand, was not given such an easy decision. While gifted with an outward sense of sight, he lacked the knowledge of his own sinful actions - his hamartia, so to speak. Oedipus was seeing to others, but blind to himself. As he fled from Corinth, fearing a prophecy he received from an oracle, Oedipus showed complete blindness to the inevitability of his fate. The murder of his father, Laius, and the subsequent marriage to this mother, Jocasta, further elucidate the extent of Oedipus’ blindness; blind in deed, reason, and consequence. Tragically, Oedipus’ anagnorisis occurs simultaneously with his mother’s/wife’s suicide. With a heart full of despair and a pair of newly opened eyes, Oedipus makes his transformation complete as he exchanges his limited physical eyesight for the spiritual sight possessed by Teiresias. With this being done, Oedipus also seals his fate – he no longer can serve evil,

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