Blindness in Oedipus
It has been said that people can be blinded to the truth. The answer to their question or solution to their problem may have been sitting right in front of them all along. Yet, they could not see the answer. They were blinded to the truth. Associations have been made between being blind and enlightened. A blind person is said to have powers to see invisible things. They “see” into the future. The blind may not have physical sight, but they have another kind of vision. In Sophocles’ King Oedipus, Teiresias, the blind prophet, presents the truth to King Oedipus and Jocasta. Oedipus has been blinded to the truth his whole life. When he does find the truth, he loses his physical vision. Because of the truth, Oedipus blinds himself. Jocasta was blind to the true identity of Oedipus. Even when she found out the truth, she refused to accept it. In this case, those who are blind ultimately do have a higher vision – the truth.
Kind Oedipus started life with a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to avoid this fate, his parents, Laius and Jocasta, sent him into the mountains to die. However, a shepherd saved Oedipus. This shepherd gave Oedipus to Polybus and Merope. When Oedipus learned of his prophecy, he fled his home, thinking these people were his real parents. On his flight, he met Laius. He ended up killing Laius. He continued on, answered a riddle of the evil Sphinx, and ended up king of Thebes. With this kingdom, Oedipus married Jocasta. He had lived out the prophecy without even knowing he had. Thebes fell onto bad times, and a prophet put the blame on a polluter of the lands. Oedipus called on Teiresias, and Teiresias informed him that the polluter was the King. As Oedipus searched further and further, he discovered that he was the polluter and that the prophecy had come true. When Oedipus finally discovered the truth, he was so distressed that he ran pins into his eyes, blinding himself. He had been blinded to the truth for so long.
Oedipus was blind in more then one way. He was blind to the truth about his own life. Oedipus 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. As more and more of the story started to fall into place, Oedipus was forced to open his eyes to the truth. Oedipus did kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus was the person causing the bad times in Thebes. As soon as Oedipus knew and accepted the truth, he blinded himself. Just as Teiresias was blind and open to the truth, so was Oedipus.
Oedipus was also physically blind. Oedipus’ physical blindness played into the whole role of the Greek tragedy. 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, Teiresias. Teiresias told Oedipus that he had come into Thebes with his sight, but he would leave Thebes without it. Oedipus’ physical blindness also left Oedipus to the wrongs of 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 reminders and as punishment. Oedipus’ physical blindness was just as painful as his blindness to the truth. Both were intertwined in each other.
Jocasta’s blindness was different then Oedipus’. She knew about the prophecy, but she thought Oedipus was dead. She had no idea that she had married her son. As pieces of information came to point to the whole truth of the matter, Jocasta refused to accept what had really happened. She realized what had happened, and she knew that she had played a role in them. Her way of dealing with the whole deal was to kill herself. Jocasta’s blindness ultimately led to her downfall.
Teiresias’ blindness was of the physical nature. Teiresias played the role of the typical prophet in the Greek tragedy. He was physically blind, but he had vision into the future. When he presented the truth to Oedipus, Oedipus attacked his blindness. He told Teiresias that the only reason he was not blaming him for the whole situation was that Teiresias could not see. Oedipus used his blindness to prophesize that Oedipus would leave Thebes blind, poor, and shamed. This statement irritated Oedipus even more. Oedipus began to turn away from the idea of a prophet and seeing into the future. Teiresias’ physical blindness led to Oedipus’ physical blindness.
Figurative blindness can be harder to deal with then literal blindness.
A person who is physically blind knows that he will probably be blind the rest of his life. That person will learn to deal with the blindness. However, if a person is blind to the truth, there is nothing that person can do until they learn the truth. The person may not even know that he is wrong. When the person does learn the truth, he tends to feel ignorant. The person wonders if things could have been avoided had the truth only been known. For Oedipus and Jocasta in Sophocles’ King Oedipus, this scenario was just the case. When Oedipus learned the truth, his way of dealing with his figurative blindness was to blind himself. When Jocasta learned the truth, her way of dealing with her figurative blindness was to kill herself. In this play, blindness led to the truth, and the truth led to blindness. Oedipus, Teiresias, and Jocasta were all blind, yet all found the truth.