The Significance of Going Blind in Sophocles, King Oedipus One of the most important theme in Oedipus Rex, remains the theme of blinding himself, Oedipus, central character of the play, ruler of Thebes, conqueror of the Sphinx, a great leader and role model a character dominated by valor and strong will. His destiny is sad; gods will help him to rise up to be a good king and to be loved by the people, and in the end help him to fall in the deepest abyss.
The scene of blinding himself is the most touching one, being both shocking and reveling of the human condition. It is a classic part that needs to be understood; is a great way to bring the whole story together, being a type of action which gives us a better feel for the real tragedy. King Oedipus is both physical and metaphorical blind; clear-eyed Oedipus is blind to the truth about his origins and inadvertent crimes and only after he blinded himself he gains a prophetic ability.
Persevering in his urge to find the truth about his origins, pushing his actions beyond the limits and against anybody’s dissimilar advice, he overcame all in discovering his identity, discovering himself, but the seeming success is followed by an overwhelming action of self-mutilation. Prophesy becomes truth: he is his father’s murderer and his mother’s husband. Physical blindness keeps Oedipus from having to see the looks of other people’s faces who know the truth about him. He felt just to hurt himself for unknowingly being with his mother and killing his father and punishing himself for the terrible thinks he did. For why should I have sight, To whom nought now gave pleasure through the eye? ” “What could I see, whom hear With gladness, whom delight in anymore? ”(1).
He cannot bear to see the consequences of being a criminal and immoralist, albeit unknowingly or to look in the eyes the father he kills or the mother he married when they all meet again in death. It was a belief in Greek culture that you would be the same way in the afterlife as you were when you died and for that reason, Oedipus blinds himself so he won’t have to look upon his mother and his father in the fterlife. ” How, if I kept my sight, could I have looked In Hades on my father’s countenance, Or mine all hapless mother, when, toward both, I have done deeds no death can e’er atone? ”(2). Oedipus physical blindness also left Oedipus to ponder the wrongs in 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 with each other. Oedipus was blind to the reality of his life since he was a child. Feeling Oedipus’ pain when he blinds himself makes you quickly think of everything that he was blind to throughout the story. He had no idea that his real parents were Laius and Jocasta. He was so blind that he got mad at anyone who was foolish enough to suggest such an idea. It is deliberately ironic that the “seer” can “see” better than Oedipus, despite being blind.
In one line, Tiresias says: “So you mock my blindness? Let me tell you this. You with your precious eyes, you’re blind to the corruption of your life…”(3). As more and more of the story started to fall into place, Oedipus was forced to open his eyes to the truth. He was the person causing the bad times in Thebes. As soon as Oedipus knew and accepted the truth, he blinded himself. Just as Tiresias was blind and open to the truth, so was Oedipus at the end. The only ones who can truly see are blind.
This is a popular theme throughout Greek literature, especially in Oedipus the King where Sophocles nurtures the idea that real sight does not require eyes but the ability to see beyond the surface of things. Tiresias is the only physically blind character, is the only person that through the play can actually see the truth. Oedipus himself can only truly achieve this state of knowledge after he blinds himself. Association have been made between being blind and enlightened. The self-mutilation scene of Oedipus can be interpreted also as an initiation in the understanding of the rationalization of the thought process of existence.
The fact that he, as the King of Thebes and the slayer of the Sphinx, pokes his eyes out in front of a large audience tell us that starting with that moment he begins his new life, filled with heartaches and meekness; this is true for those that understand the rough schooling of supreme wisdom. Oedipus, with his terrible gesture gains insight to his soul and how to make it noble. Mankind must look deep inside its own self in order to discover that inner light which can shine upon the paths to self-knowledge. Infinitely more important than the light we see with our eyes is this inner light that can enlighten us to a better spirit.
Imposing himself not to be able to see what is going on around him he takes actions to the limit in order to make other people aware of the truth. The meaning of Oedipus myth is that at the base of human being’s existence we will not find a dark instinct but rather the bright light of our soul and this must be discovered and retrieved to the surface in order to heal the wounds of the present day man. Oedipus’ dignity cannot be kneeled by any physical hardship or society’s out casting. Our hero raises victoriously above all the calamities that surge upon him. 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. Tiresias told Oedipus that he had come into Thebes with his sight, but he would leave Thebes without it ”for, blind from having sight And beggared from high fortune, with a staff In stranger lands he shall feel forth his way”(4) Oedipus’ myth is a praise raised to the human soul’s bravery in search of the almighty truth.
Ecom 101- shafa- part2
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