The Blind Nature Of Oedipus Essay, Research Paper
April 27, 2000
The Blind nature of Oedipus
One of the main themes in Oedipus the King is blindness. Not just physical blindness, but intellectual blindness as well. This issue is an effective contrasting method for Oedipus at different points in the play. By saying “blindness”, however, is a little misleading. It can be broken down into two sections: Oedipus’s ability to “see”, and his willingness to “see”. The word “see” can be used in both contexts. Throughout the play, these two details are always at the center of the play.
In the beginning of the play, Oedipus has perfect sight or vision. However, he is blind and ignorant to the truth about himself and his past, which relates to the idea of “truth v.s. appearance”. He desperately wants to know, and to understand, but he cannot. At this point, it is obvious what Oedipus’s action must be to overcome the blindness.
Ironically, into the play is introduced a prophet, Teiresias, who is physically blind, but who has great mental power. This justifies Oedipus as a man ignorant to the true appearance of things – this blind man can “see” the truth about Oedipus, yet Oedipus, in all of his physical perfection, cannot.
Oedipus does have tragic flaws, which are standard in the Greek tragedies. Oedipus has a tragic flaw, which brings him to his end. Although it cannot be summed up into one word, there is evidence that his flaw may be ignorance or blindness to his own fate. This is true because we see Oedipus trying to avoid his fate, which was that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother, but he ran away from his homeland. Only if he had stayed then he may have been able to try to take his fate into his own hands, but instead he fulfilled the prophecy.
Oedipus had changed dramatically throughout the end of the play. After realizing his flaw of fleeing his fate and actually killing his father, he was desperate to find the truth. In his case though, he wanted to see the truth and he finally got that chance. After marrying his mother and becoming aware of all that had happened he went into despair. After knowing that he couldn’t see the truth and wasn’t aware to understand what happened, he made himself blind. He didn’t want to see the truth and he wanted to run away after all that has happened in his life. Tiresias told Oedipus his fate and predicted his physical blindness would soon come forth, “You are a poor wretch to taunt me with the very insults which everyone soon will heap upon yourself” (lines 408 – 410). He said this because of Oedipus’ attitude towards it. This was when he didn’t want to believe a blind man, a man that couldn’t see what he could see and he thought Tiresias wouldn’t be able to understand everything that was going on. Unfortunately for Oedipus he was completely wrong. This is where the roles are reversed and he becomes the blind man who has seen more than he wanted to.
It is evident that he is more reluctant to accept his fate than in the beginning of the play. This goes along with the fact that him blinding himself is dramatically appropriate. This was due to the fact that he didn’t want to know the truth anymore and wanted to get away in a sense.
Oedipus the King was Sophocles’ attempt to show the Greek God’s that they could not avoid the dealings of the gods, or they may be forced to have a plot against the people he should love the most. Jocasta, his mother/wife, was in this way, a victim. Even though she brought it upon herself, by not telling Oedipus that she knew of his fate, it was at this moment when she became aware of her punishment. In desperation at this point, she kills herself. Oedipus the King is a true tragedy in the sense that fate and Oedipus’ own tragic flaw combined through the play to bring about his downfall. What makes it much more tragic though is that the events were, for the most part, out of Oedipus’ control. When Oedipus speaks to Jocasta, it is very clear that she knows about his fate and what just might happen if he finds out. He basically says to her, How can you say that, when the clues to my birth are in my hands? The only thing she will reply with is, For God’s love, let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you? My own pain is enough for me to bear. This just shows how much pain his fate is bringing to everyone. For him not to know about his real parents in the beginning of the play and then to find out in the end that he did in fact kill his father and marry his mother, would destroy any courage and great honor he would have for himself. The differences he sees in himself from the beginning of the play to the end are dramatic.
Toward the end of the play, it is shown how Oedipus learns the true nature of things – his past is revealed to him and he learns that the prophecy was correct. Now Oedipus has gone through it all. He can see all to clearly what the truth is, but he desperately does not want to accept his fate. So, he reacts by, committing an act of escape; he blinds himself so that he may not see. Unfortunately, this does not help his problem. This writer thinks it was an act of cowardice because he didn’t want to accept the situation the way he “saw” it, and decided instead not to see it at all.
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