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Sight Vs. Blindness in Oedipus: A Battle of Figurative and Literal Proportions

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Introduction

Lindsay Mitchell October 18, 2002 Mrs. Holladay AP English Sight Vs. Blindness in Oedipus: A Battle of Figurative and Literal Proportions Sight versus blindness is one of several major themes present in the play Oedipus Rex. Oedipus, Iocasta, and Teiresias are characters in the play who represent sight or blindness or a combination of both. While the most obvious example of sight versus blindness lies in the actual vision of the characters, their inability to "see" the truths around them also fits the theme. The figurative and literal sight or blindness of Oedipus, Iocasta, and Teiresias demonstrates their character strengths and weaknesses throughout the play as the theme is further developed. At the beginning of the play, Oedipus is both figuratively and literally able to see. He has vision and at the same time, he is able to see, or recognize the answer to the Sphinx's riddle. Using his sight to his advantage, Oedipus is able to lift the plague from Thebes and become the ruler of the Thebans. ...read more.

Middle

At the same time, both Oedipus and Iocasta are blind to the truth of their relationship. In an attempt to convince Oedipus "that the prophetic art/ Touches our human fortunes not at all" (708-709), Iocasta relates the tale of the prophecy made about her son. Even after this story, both Oedipus and Iocasta do not yet see that they are related not only through marriage, but also through blood. Their continued inability to see the nature of their relationship proves that they are both weak and incompetent of admitting the obvious truths around them. The previous strength demonstrated in Oedipus' ability to see, is overpowered by the weakness present in his blinded view of the truths around him. Therefore, figurative blindness is a weakness in these characters because they purposely seek to avoid reality. The presence of the wise, but literally blind Teiresias proves that physical blindness can be a strength. Although Teiresias is wise by definition because he is an oracle, his wisdom is so much more. ...read more.

Conclusion

Additionally, by blinding himself, Oedipus may be trying to emulate the wise Teiresias whose fate could never be equal in suffering to Oedipus'. As a blindman, Oedipus "needs strength, And one to guide him" (1291-1292). He can no longer "Seek...to have [his] way in all things" (1524); he must become humble and accept the "softly but strongly" way of life that Teiresias lives. Therefore, the physically blind Oedipus is strong for he accepts the sins which he previously denied and in the process, transforms his disposition of righteousness into one of humility and interdependence. The play Oedipus Rex proves that both strength and weakness can be found in sight or in blindness. Whether the sight or blindness is figurative or literal does not matter, the potential for good and bad remains the same. Through the victories and defeats of the characters Oedipus, Teiresias, and Iocasta, it is evident that neither blindness nor sight is better; instead, the acknowledgement of truth is the best choice for it leads to a tranquil soul. Mitchell-1 ...read more.

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