Oedipus Sight And Blindness Essay, Research Paper
Oedipus Rex is a play about the way we blind ourselves to painful truths that we can’t bear to see. Physical sight and blindness are used throughout the play, often ironically, as a metaphor for mental sight and blindness. The play ends with the hero Oedipus literally blinding himself to avoid seeing the result of his terrible fate. But as the play demonstrates, Oedipus, the man who killed his father and impregnated his mother, has been blind all along, and is partly responsible for his own blindness.
When the play opens, the people of the town are asking Oedipus for help. A curse has been cast upon the city and the only way to remove it, is to find the murderer of the last king, Laios. Oedipus then makes a promise to the people that he will find the guilty and punish them.
Oedipus can physically see, but his mental blindness inhibits him from seeing the truth of his life. During the course of the day he has been given many clues to realize the truth about himself. Such that his name is Oedipus and “Oedipus” means swollen foot, and Laious’ son’s feet were bound together at the ankle. It becomes very obvious to the reader early on in the play as to what the outcome will be. It is ironic that the one individual, who comes to help the city, is the individual that has been the cause of the curse. Oedipus is the illness.
Oedipus and Jocasta both don’t want to see the truth. Although it may occur to them at some point, but they don’t give it a second thought because they think it is absurd and it isn’t possible. “Why should anyone in this world be afraid, since fate rules us and nothing van be forseen? A man should live only for the present day. Have no more fear of sleeping with your mother: How many men, in dreams, have lain with their mothers! No reasonable man is troubled by such things.” Jocasta is further from believing than Oedipus, she constantly tells him not to worry about it, don’t get worked up, and to just forget what you were told. Oedipus cannot forget what the oracle has said and goes on to pursue the case.
Through the course of the play Oedipus is the detective, the judge, and the jury. He investigates, decides a verdict, and carries out his own punishment. When Tiresias arrives at Thebes Oedipus questions him looking for answers. Tiresias is a blind man, who ironically can see the future and truths of people’s lives. It is Tiresias who is the first person to tell Oedipus that he has killed his own father. He tells Oedipus “you do not see the evil in which you live.” Oedipus doubts Tiresias’ ability to see the truths because of his physical blindness and states, “ You are blind, your ears and mind as well as eyes.” Tiresias has a very different type of sight than that of Oedipus. Tiresias can see the truth even while blinded, whereas Oedipus can physically see but he is blinded by his own shortsightedness.
Jocasta shows mental blindness when she fails to realize that the prophecy once told to her has come true. She ignores the signs that prove the prophecies true, because she doesn’t want to see them. When Jocasta eyes are finally opened to the truth, she returns to the house and shortly thereafter kills herself. She does this because she can’t believe that she had been so blind to see that the prophecies were true. She does not want to live with the double fruit of her marriage, a husband by her husband and children by her child.
Ironically at the beginning of the play Oedipus is lacking the mental ability to see, but when he finally does see the truth, he physically blinds himself. “I know that you are deathly sick; and yet, sick as you are, not one is as sick as I.” He takes responsibility for blinding himself saying he can’t bear to see the horror everywhere in his actions. It is ironic that in the beginning of the play Oedipus is portrayed as an admired and noble ruler, and by the end of the play he is stripped of his political power, has blinded himself, and has exiled himself.