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Sight And Blindness In Oedipus Rex

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In the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, the themes of sight and blindness are developed in a way to communicate to the reader that it is not eyesight itself, but insight that holds the key to truth and, without it, no amount of knowledge can help uncover that truth. Some may define insight as the ability to intuitively know what is going to happen, or simply as the capacity to understand the true nature of a situation. Both definitions hold a significant role in the play, not only for more obvious characters such as Oedipus and Teiresias, but also for Iocaste, whose true character is rather questionable considering her reactions to the events of the play, however, one can only speculate. With these themes in mind, one can see how Sophocles portrays each character to suit these themes and communicate his own definition of the term "sight."

When Oedipus calls on Teiresias to reveal the identity of King Laios' killer, Teiresias reveals the murderer is Oedipus and Oedipus himself reacts in anger, rage, and denial. The chorus as well as Oedipus himself refuses to believe this, understandably. Instead of assessing the situation with level-headedness and a clear mind open to all possibilities, his anger blinds him as to what truly could have happened and, in his rage, he accuses both Creon and Teiresias of plotting against him.Oedipus was blinded from the start, ignorant to his true origins, thus, causing him to trigger the unavoidable chain of events that would lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy. He could not have made a conscious, well-informed decision on how to avoid the prophecy because he lacked the insight to do so. However, even if he had known beforehand, fate itself is unavoidable, rendering insight useless. The irony here lies within the themes of sight and blindness when applied to Teiresias in comparison to Oedipus. Oedipus, with both his eyes, as well as his knowledge and comprehensive skills, could not see the true nature of his actions in killing the man, who he soon discovered was King Laios, and his company, as well as taking the throne in Thebes and lying with his wife, soon to be revealed to him as his mother, and having children by her. Teiresias, however, with no eyes to see with, sees most clearly and knows the truth about Oedipus' past, supporting the idea that sight, in the literal sense, holds little significance in the genre of greek tragedy, and cannot, alone and without insight and the open-mindedness to truly consider the many possibilities, understand the truth.

There are also certain perculiarities in the process in which Iocaste and Oedipus uncover Oedipus' past. Why is it that both Iocaste and oedipus initially fail to recognize the similarities between the prophect given to Laios and that which was given to Oedipus himself? Also, why is it that Oedipus does not recall the marks on his ankles after hearing Iocaste describe how she had her child's ankles bound before he was left to die on Kathairon? Though these questions cannot be answered definitively given the text, I interpreted their failure to make these connections as a representaion of their desperation and denial of the truth. It seems as if they both had unconsciously chosen not to recognize these clues and use them to make the connections to the facts to discover the truth. In doing so they blinded themselves, putting covers in front of their eyes to further delay Oedipus' fate. This sort of delay can also be seen in Iocaste's reaction when the messenger from Corinth reveals more about Oedipus' past. She reacts saying: "For God's love, let us have no more questioning? / Is your life nothing to you? / My own is pain enough for me to bear" (55). After doing so, she leaves the scene in passion and sorrow, seemingly as if she already knows the truth and simply wishes not to speak it. She seems to know more than she's letting on, as if this truth were a dark secret she's been keeping hidden all these years, though, given the text, one can only speculate. If this were the case, she too had contributed to Oedipus' ignorance and blindness, and, if it be otherwise, she'd be doing the same, but only delaying the inevitable.

Another significant moment in which these themes play a major role would be the scene when Oedipus discovers his wife, who seems to have hung herself, in their room. After taking her down from the rope, he mourns her death, and, in such a state of sadness



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