January 30, 2001
In the story of Oedipus the king, Sophocles beautifully demonstrates the imagery of sight versus blindness through the use of tragedy and ignorance. Oedipus is ignorant to his own incest, therefore causing the first instance of his blindness. The second instance of Oedipus blindness is the ignorance of his true parents identity. The third instance of Oedipus blindness is a literal one, in which he physically blinds himself after finding the body of his mother, or wife. Sophocles utilizes his skill of creating a tragic character by showing Oedipus as blind on multiple levels, all the while being unaware of his blindness until the end.
Oedipus first encounter with blindness is in the incestuous relationship he has with his mother. Although Oedipus does not realize the nature of his relationship he nor his mother take into account the prophecies they have both heard. The gods may not choose to show pity on Oedipus because he deliberately tries to usurp their power by leaving who he believes to be his mother and father. Oedipus is blind to the fact that his mother, his wife, the mother of his children is the fulfillment of the prophecy he hears long ago.
The second instance of Oedipus blindness is his misinterpretation of who his true parents are. His hubris bars him from acknowledging the fact that he could not avoid the prophecy of killing his father and marrying his mother. Oedipus believes that he is the son of Polybus, not knowing that King Laios of Thebes, the man he murdered, is his actual father. What torture for both Jocasta and Oedipus it must be when they discover they have been married to someone of such a close kin as mother and son.
The final, and perhaps the most dramatic display of Oedipus blindness, occurs just after the climax of the play, after the truth has been revealed to Oedipus He struck his eyes. Oedipus display of seeming rage and dismay takes on a deeper understanding with more careful reading. Oedipus has finally achieved his goal of obtaining knowledge by no longer being blind to the facts of the world; however, once he finds the truth he seeks, Oedipus cannot bear to look upon the truth of the matter and feels it a necessity to blind himself. The symbolic act of blinding oneself not only shows displeasure with the world but also never having any hope of it being returned to beauty.
In the account of Oedipus, there is little room for doubting the importance of the imagery created by the use of symbolic blinding. Through the blindness of incest, ignorance of parents, and physical blinding, Sophocles demonstrates the imagery of sight versus blindness.When one is blind for their whole life, perhaps it is better they never know the truth. It is plausible to say that the truth can sometimes cause more harm than good. The story of Oedipus serves as a warning to be content with what you have.