Sight and Blindness In Oedipus Rex Essay

“Oedipus Rex”, by Sophocles, is a tragedy of Oedipus’s life as an outcast and how he became king of Thebes. Oedipus was given away as a baby to be killed because it was prophesied that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother. However, the child Oedipus survived and grew up elsewhere not knowing anything about this or who his true parents were. When Oedipus grew up he left home to go to another city called Thebes where he “solved” the riddle of the Sphinx. This solved prophecy said that whoever solved the riddle would become King over all of Greece. Oedipus answered “Man”, which refers to Oedipus himself.

Oedipus becomes King of Thebes and he ends up marrying the widowed Queen Jocasta, who happens to be Oedipus’s biological mother. Oedipus Rex tells how Oedipus became king of Thebes but more importantly is about Oedipus being blind to his own fate that has already been decided for him. Many think that it is Oedipus’s blindness in believing what he wants to believe rather than what actually exists makes the tragedy inevitable in the end.

Oedipus relies on Tiresias for knowledge about his true identity, but Oedipus’ fate is ultimately decided by Oedipus himself. Tiresias’ physical blindness foreshadows Oedipus’s fate in the context of Oedipus Rex. This technique of foreshadowing allows Sophocles to develop a theme without giving away any major information to the reader/ audience. As a result, during Oedipus’s revelation that he has fulfilled his destiny and even more tragic news about his family, it results in a maximum impact on the reader/audience.

In addition, Tiresias’ physical blindness gives dramatic irony to Oedipus Rex because Tiresias knows Oedipus’ future, but Oedipus is unable to recognize his own fate. Tiresias first appears in Oedipus Rex when Oedipus meets him on the road seeking oracles about Oedipus fate or identity. At this point Oedipus does not yet know that he has fulfilled the prophecy and killed his father and married his mother. Oedipus is a king who believes himself to be a savior of Thebes because he rid the city of a great plague by answering a riddle from the Oracle at Delphi.

Oedipus believes himself to be innocent up until Tiresias tells him that Oedipus was sent into exile as a baby by Oedipus’ biological parents because Oedipus’ biological mother had a child with Oedipus’ biological father and the resulting child would kill Oedipus. Oedipus is shocked by this information because Oedipus thought that he was of royal decent from Corinth instead of being born in Thebes. In addition, Oedipus’s shock comes from him realizing his fate of killing his father and marrying his mother which also results in Oedipus being self-blinding himself out of guilt for fulfilling the prophecy.

Tiresias uses blindness to foreshadow Oedipus fate, develop the theme of blindness, and illustrate dramatic irony through three key examples. First Tiresias’s physical blindness foreshadows Oedipus’ fate in Oedipus Rex. Oedipus is unable to recognize his own fate because Oedipus puts his trust in Tiresias to tell Oedipus who Oedipus was, but Oedipus later learns that he himself fulfilled the prophecy. Second, Tiresias uses blindness as a way to develop the theme of blindness by portraying Oedipus as mentally blind and physically blind.

Oedipus thinks he knows everything about Oepdius’s purpose for being which ultimately leads to Oepdius fulfilling his destiny without realizing it until it was too late. Thirdly, Tiresias imposes dramatic irony upon the audience because they know that Tiresias knows Oepdius’ true identity, but Oepdius is unable to recognize Oedipus’ fate because Oepdius believes he is not of Thebes until Oepdius learns that Oepdius is Thebes.

Oedipus is so blinded by the arrogance of his thinking that he does not realize in what state Oedipus life has fallen. Oedipus continues to be blinded throughout the play until Oedipus self-destructive behavior causes Oedipus blindness.

Sophocles uses many techniques in Oedipus Rex to foreshadow Oedipus fate. Sophocles reinforces this use of foreshadowing when Tiresias sees Oedipus downfall and tries to warn Oedipus that his death was near, but all others turned him away (Sophocles 1174). Sophocles also uses symbolism with Oedipus self-inflicted mutilation; Sophocles demonstrates Tiresias’ knowledge of Oedipus fate through Oedipus blindness.

The blindness that Oedipus inflicts upon himself foreshadows Oedipus death and the destruction Oedipus will bring upon Oedipus life. Oedips self-mutilation proves to be a metaphor for Oeds life as he continues to inflict more damage upon Oedipus own body. In addition, Sophocles demonstrates how blind Oedipus is when Oedipus makes assumptions about his mother and father without truly knowing who they are.

In conclusion, Oedipus visit with Tiresias reveals a legacy of indecision within Oedipus character because of all the decisions that have been made for him since birth. Oedipus previously believed that he had made the right decision about being king, but Oedipus fails to recognize that Oedipus fate was already determined. This blindness is also displayed in Oedipus lack of knowledge about his parents and abandoning Oeds children out of ignorance, which brings destruction upon Oedipus life.

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