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Sight Vs. Blindness in Oedipus Rex

An analysis of the theme of sight vs. blindness in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

The theme of sight vs. blindness is a very prevalent theme in Oedipus the King. The two most affected characters by this main theme are Oedipus, the king, and Tiresias, the blind seer. Oedipus is affected because while he is not literally blind, he is blinded by ambition to find the killer of Laius, and blind to what is happening around him. Tiresias, who is actually blind, is a prophet and understands what is happening around him. Oedipus does not understand what is happening around him, but can see, while Tiresias is the opposite.

Oedipus, whose eyes are fully functional, does not see how corrupt the life he has been living is. Tiresias, a seer, tells him his destiny, and he fails to see that it is the truth. Tiresias also says, “You do not see the evil in which you live.” (25). Oedipus questions Tiresias and calls him a liar, “You have no power or truth. You are blind, your ears and mind as well as eyes.” (25). Oedipus and all of the other characters in the play who can see with their eyes, are blind to their current circumstances and cannot see the truth.

Tiresias, who is blind, but knows the truth, is the only person in the play who can figuratively “see.” When Tiresias gives Oedipus his prophecy, Oedipus is flabbergasted and ignores what Tiresias says, “Say what you like. It will all be meaningless.” (25). Oedipus accuses Tiresias of making up his prophecy, showing how blind to the circumstances he is, “Was it Creon, or you, that invented this story?” (26). Tiresias, the blind man, sees and understands the circumstances of the kingdom Oedipus is living in, while Oedipus, who can see and lives there, does not.

The theme of sight vs. blindness also creates a very ironic situation in the play. Tiresias, a blind seer, sees and reveals the truth to Oedipus, who can see, but does not understand what is happening around him. Tiresias provides a very clear example of this ironic situation in saying, “I am what I am-a fool to you, so it seems, but the parents who brought you into the world thought me sensible enough.” (29). Tiresias is a prophet and he speaks the truth, so most people believe him, but Oedipus does not because he is blind to the world around him. The irony Tiresias is involved in is one in which a blind man reveals the truth to a man who can see.

In the play Oedipus The King people who can physically see are blind to the truth and what is happening around them. People who are physically blind can see the truth.

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