n Sophocles\' Oedipus Rex, the theme of being blind and seeing is repeated over and over again. In fact, anything having to do with sight, blindness or even the eyes is repeated.
I will examine the types of sight and blindness that occur in the play. Specifically these are:
the obvious blindness of the prophet Teiresias but his sight about the truth
the blindness of Oedipus and Iokaste to the truth
the blindness of Oedipus when he gouges out his eyes with Iokaste\'s broaches
It has been said that people can be blind to the truth. The answer to their question or the solution to their problem may have been sitting right in front of them all along yet they could not see the answer. They were blind to the truth. Associations have been made between being blind and enlightened. A blind person is said to have powers to see invisible things. They \"see\" into the future. The blind may not have physical sight, but they have another kind of vision.
Teiresias, the blind prophet, is Sophocles' example of this theme. And it is quite ironic that after he presents the truth to King Oedipus and Queen Iokaste, Oedipus gouges his eyes out with his wife Iokaste's, brooches at the end of the play. He takes responsibility for blinding himself saying that he can not bear to see the \"horror everywhere\" in his actions.
Sight and Blindness are very important in the conversations between Teiresias, the blind prophet, and Oedipus.
When Oedipus speaks to Teiresias, he says, "Blind though you are, you know the city lies sick with plague." (Scene 1, Line 290). Oedipus admits that Teiresias is blind but believes he can help overcome the plague brought on by Apollo. Teiresias then responds to Oedipus. He says, "How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be when there's no help in truth!" (Scene 1, Line 304). This is a quite obvious hint to Oedipus about his future. As their discussion turns into a quarrel, Oedipus begins to insult the prophet. He says," You can not see the evil." (Scene 1, Line 352) and "You sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man!" (Scene 1, Line 356). Oedipus also says, "You child of total night! I would not touch you; Neither would any man who sees the sun." (Scene 1, Line 359). The irony is very obvious here since Oedipus is the one who is as blind as Tiresias in his own sense.
Teiresias is literally blind while Oedipus is "blind" towards his prophecies. Oedipus will eventually blind himself but he is ignorant towards his own future. In response to the insults, Teiresias becomes blunter about the information he knows. He says, "But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You can not see the wretchedness of your life, nor in whose house you live, no, nor with whom. Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me? You don not even know the blind wrongs that you have done them, on earth, and in the world below. But the double lash of your parents' curse will whip you out of this land some day, with only night upon your precious eyes." (Scene 1, Line 399). With reference to Oedipus, Teiresias says, "A blind man, who has his eyes now; a penniless man, who is rich now; and he will go tapping the strange earth with his staff." (Scene 1, Line 439). Teiresias is talking about how Oedipus will eventually discover his past.
Teiresias\' blindness was of a physical nature yet he played the role of the typical prophet in the Greek tragedy. He was physically blind, but he had vision into the future. When he presented the truth to Oedipus, Oedipus attacked his blindness. He told Teiresias that the only reason he was not blaming him for the whole situation was that Teiresias could not see. Teiresias used his blindness to prophesy that Oedipus would leave Thebes blind, poor, and shamed. This statement irritated Oedipus even more. Oedipus began to turn away from the idea of a prophet and seeing into the future. Teiresias\' physical blindness led to Oedipus\' physical blindness.
Oedipus has been blind to the truth his whole life. When he does find the truth, he loses his physical vision. Because of the truth, Oedipus blinds himself. Oedipus was blind in more then one way. He was blind to the truth about his own life. Oedipus had no idea that his real parents were Laius and Iokaste. He was so blind that he got mad at anyone who was foolish enough to suggest such an idea. As more and more of the story started to fall into place, Oedipus was forced to open his eyes to the truth. Oedipus did kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus was the person causing the bad times in Thebes. As soon as Oedipus knew and accepted the truth, he blinded himself. Just as Teiresias was blind and open to the truth, so ultimately was Oedipus.
Oedipus was also physically blind. Oedipus\' physical blindness played into the whole role of the Greek tragedy. The blindness completed the tragedy for Oedipus. Every Greek tragedy was supposed to end with the main characters experiencing their own, personal tragedy. For Oedipus, this tragedy was discovering the truth and becoming blind. It completed the prophecies that Oedipus received from the blind prophet, Teiresias. Teiresias told Oedipus that he had come into Thebes with his sight, but he would leave Thebes without it. Oedipus\' physical blindness also left Oedipus to the wrongs of his life. With nothing to look at, Oedipus was forced to think about his life and what had happened. He was forced to deal with it. He had the blackness and the physical pain he had inflicted on himself as reminder and as punishment. Oedipus\' physical blindness was just as painful as his blindness to the truth. Both were intertwined in each other.
Iokaste\'s blindness was different than Oedipus\'. She knew about the prophecy, but she thought Oedipus was dead. She had no idea that she had married her son. As pieces of information came to point to the whole truth of the matter, Iokaste refused to accept what had really happened. Iokaste's blindness ultimately led to her downfall.
Figurative blindness can be harder to deal with then literal blindness. A person who is physically blind knows that he will probably be blind the rest of his life. That person will learn to deal with the blindness. However, if a person is blind to the truth, there is nothing that person can do until they learn the truth. The person may not even know that he is wrong. When the person does learn the truth, he tends to feel ignorant. The person wonders if things could have been avoided had the truth only been known. For Oedipus and Iokaste this scenario was just the case. When Oedipus learned the truth, his way of dealing with his figurative blindness was to blind himself. When Iokaste learned the truth, her way of dealing with her figurative blindness was to kill herself. In this play, blindness led to the truth, and the truth led to blindness. Oedipus, Teiresias, and Iokaste were all blind, yet all found the truth.
All these different uses of the concept of sight are found in Sophocles' play Oedipus the King. Oedipus is noble in taking full responsibility for his troubled past, even though his troubles have been caused by Laius' and Iokaste's blind way of handling their problems. With a little help from the gods, who did not hold Oedipus in favor, his blind choices and quick temper lead to his great fall. Even though Oedipus is not physically blind like Teiresias, he is blind to the actuality of the actions of his life. Because of this, it is ironic that Oedipus is morally blind when physically he can see. When Oedipus finally sees the truth, he realizes he is morally blind and then physically blinds his eyes. He realizes that his destiny is in the hands of the gods, and there was nothing he could do to change that. These are all different concepts of sight that revolve around the story of Oedipus.
In conclusion, the theme of sight dominated Sophocles' tragedy \"Oedipus the King.\" Overall, Sophocles used sight and blindness as an extended metaphor, in which the prevailing form of sight showed- good or evil, of which there can be only one.