The Blindness of Oedipus The King Essay

Light and darkness, sight and blindness come in different forms. One can be literally blind, and thus be physically unable to see the people around him, the places he goes to and everything that comes about. On the other hand, one can be figuratively blind and, hence, see only what goes on in the outside and in the physical world. The hidden truths that usually lay beneath the surface, and the mysteries that are kept secret in the depths of a person’s being all go undetected and unnoticed by figuratively blind eyes.

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The Blindness of Oedipus The King Essay
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Thus, blind people see nothing. For them, there is only the darkness that never ends. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, the main characters were all blind and were all stuck in the darkness that kept hold of them as prisoners of fate bound to the life that they were destined to live – the same life that they blindly lived even when some of them (i. e. Oedipus and Laius) did all they could to spurn and evade their destinies as foretold.

Oedipus spent his years figuratively blind to the many truths prevailing behind the circumstances of his life.

As an informed onlooker of the play, one would shake his head out of pity for Oedipus – in his blindness, he has done things that were not easy to forgive and forget. For all his innate wisdom, seeming good fortune and power as the king of Thebes, he was a poor, blind victim of the fates who groped in the darkness all his life, only to behold light on a day when it only made his see things we could not bear to see. As a young man, Oedipus has come to hear stories saying that he is not the biological son of the parents he has known, King Polybus and Queen Merope.

For want of seeking out the truth, he set forth for the oracle – the Oracle of Delphi – to ask the one question he so needed to be answered: “Who were his real parents? ” (Bookrags website) The oracle, though, elected to not directly deal with the question Oedipus raised. Instead, it foretold that Oedipus was destined to “mate with his own mother, and shed with his own hands the blood of his own sire. ” (cited by Burgess) In his blindness, Oedipus left Corinth for want of making sure that the prophecy would not come true. In the darkness that surrounded him, he was led to believe his parents were the king and queen of Corinth.

During his travels, he had an argument with an older man over whose wagon had the right of way. Oedipus ended up killing the older man and his escorts; in doing so, he blindly fulfilled the very prophecy that he was told – the same prophecy that his true father, King Laius, was given years ago. The man who died in his own hands turned out to be King Laius. Through it all, Oedipus could not see what really happened. There was no light, and so he stayed in the total darkness that pervaded most of his life. The same blindness led to Oedipus’ ascent to the throne of Thebes.

Not knowing where he was headed because of the darkness that never ceased, Oedipus solved the Sphinx’s riddle, claimed kingship, married his mother, Jocasta, and sired children with his own mother as their mother. Such blindness led Oedipus to do it all… Such darkness totally made him unable to see the dreadful things that he was doing. With no clear sight of reality, Oedipus blindly spent years as the hero and king who saved the people of Thebes from the Sphinx, “a monster with human female head and breasts and a lion’s body with wings. ” (AbleMedia website)

Oedipus’ biological father was Laius, the king of Thebes. Laius had ordered that his baby son, Oedipus, be killed for want of preserving himself – all in response to what an oracle foretold. He was kept in the dark, though, and was never told that his son was not killed as planned. To his dying day, Laius remained blind to the fact that his son lived. With his son out of the picture, Laius lived his life believing that he was totally free from the consequences of what the oracle had once foretold. In the darkness, there was no one to shed some light to the truths behind the events of his life.

He was blind to the realization that all he did and all that happened were all contributing to the fulfillment of the same prediction. He died blind to the fact that he was killed by his own son. Thus, from the day he ordered that his son be killed, Laius had lived his life in total darkness. He was the king of Thebes but he could not see what was really going on in his life, much less what was bound to befall him. Laius’ wife and Oedipus’ mother, Jocasta was another figuratively blind character in the story.

When Oedipus claimed her hand as his prize for getting rid of the Sphinx, she went on to marry Oedipus, totally blind to his being her own son. Their wedding was an event in their lives where both she Oedipus played their roles as bride and groom in total blindness to their real identities and relations. Their blindness and the darkness that ever enveloped them have led to the great tragedies that their lives have become. In contrast to blindness is sight. The sense of sight enables a person to literally perceive the world and everything in it in their physical forms.

But sight is not limited plainly to what is tangible and material. Sight figuratively denotes the gift of understanding, of wisdom, and even of prophecy. Thus, sight in its figurative context is a rare and much more valuable faculty. One can see with his eyes wide open when there is light. A person coming to the light and being able to see people and things around him because there is light is someone who finally realizes the truth, comprehends the meanings of spoken words and of events that have passed, and understands the implication of things that have transpired.

While all the major characters of the story were figuratively blind and thus, were in complete darkness, one character therein was literally blind, Teiresias. Despite his physical blindness, though, Teiresias could see all that has happened – he had the gift to predict the future and he saw through all that have happened in Oedipus’ life. He was physically blind, but he could see the things that all the major characters were blind to. He literally lived his life in darkness, his eyes being unable to behold light, but he had light in the form of wisdom and the ability to foretell the future.

In the end, it was through Teiresias that Oedipus first saw light. Aided by a blind seer, Oedipus was finally in the light and was able to take a look at the life he lived. He figuratively acquired the sense of sight the day he learned of the entire truth. With the truth unraveled, Jocasta killed herself and Oedipus pierced his eyes so he would not anymore see his own children who were as well his brothers and sisters. Physical blindness was one punishment he inflicted upon his own self for having failed to see the truths that he should have seen.

In the end, Oedipus was a physically blind man who finally saw light, who could see his life and those of the people around him, and who belatedly understood the events that led him to be the man that he was.

Works Cited

Burgess, Anthony. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972. “Oedipus the King Book Notes Summary by Sophocles” 24 July 2008. BookRags Book Notes, 2006. <http://www. bookrags. com/notes/oed/CHR. html>. “Oedipus the King” 24 July 2008. Classics Technology Center, 2000. <http://ablemedia. com/ctcweb/netshots/oedipus. htm>.

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