Blindness is the downfall of the hero Oedipus in the play King Oedipus by Sophocles. Not only does the blindness appear physically, but also egotistically as he refuses to acknowledge the possibility of him actually being the murderer of Laius, the former King of Thebes. Coincidentally, he is also Oedipuss biological father. The use of light and dark in the play is strategically applied in order to better understand the emotion that lies within the characters. As blame is placed upon Oedipus for the murder of Laius, he blinds himself from the possible reality that he may be the killer.
The people of Thebes are informed that there is an impending curse upon them as a result of the murder mystery of their previous king, Laius. In order to quicken the cure, Oedipus calls on Teiresias, the blind prophet to aide them. Excessive pride fuels his inability to believe the prophecy of Teiresias stating Oedipus is the killer, and that he has married his mother. Until I came I, ignorant Oedipus, came and stopped the riddlers mouth, guessing the truth by mother-wit, not bird-love.
Because he continually boasts about how he has saved Thebes from the Sphinx, he believes that no one could know more than he, specially if he is the one to be accused of a crime he knows he didnt commit. In response Teiresias argues, You are please to mock my blindness. Have you eyes, and do not see your own damnation? Eyes and cannot see what company you keep. This is a pivotal component to the irony behind the idea of blindness throughout the play. Although Teiresias is physically blind, he is able to accept and see the truth, while Oedipus physically being able to see is left in the dark rejecting truth. The blindness of Oedipus leads to the darkness of Thebes also known as The City of Light.
We cannot believe, we cannot deny; alls dark. We fear, but we cannot see, what is before us worry the townspeople. Dark, here, symbolizes the confusion that is placed upon the people of Thebes. They are in a chasm trying to decipher what is to be determined as true, the prophecy of Teiresias, or the good word of Oedipus. After several testimonies, Oedipus opens his eyes and accepts the blame. In order to deliver justice for his wrongs in killing his father and marrying his mother, Oedipus chooses to blind himself physically. The Attendant explains the people regarding the Oedipuss self-inflicted njury. And thrust, from full arms length, into his eyes– eyes that should see no longer his shame, his guilt, no longer see those they should have never seen, nor see, unseeing, those he had longed to see, henceforth seeing nothing but night. The use of night is similar to that of the use of dark throughout the play. Night is in reference to lies. Everything that he, or his eye, has seen has all resulted in the discovery of a lie. From the parents he thinks he has, to the family that he has, the world he has created centers around a lie. Until the moment he discovers that he as really killed his father, ironically, Oedipus has never known truth.
When he finally deduces that he is behind the killing of his biological father, Laius, he cries, O Light! May I never look on you again, revealed as I am, sinful in my begetting, sinful in marriage, sinful in shedding of blood. In this instance his call to light refers to truth. In this, he discovers that lies and sins are the basis lie at the core of his entire life. For this very reason Oedipus blinds himself. His experience with truth is too painful and he no longer wants to see it again. To him there is othing left for him to see. He explains to his people, What should I do with eyes where all is ugliness? Where is there any beauty for me to see? Where loveliness of sight or sound? Away! At one point he believes that he has seen everything, when actually has seen nothing for everything around him has been no more then just a lie. Although not physically blind until the very end, Oedipus is blind to the truth throughout the entire play. Because of this he unknowingly promotes himself as a tragic hero. Everything he accepts as true in his life is proven to be a lie leaving him with absolutely nothing.
The use of light and dark symbolizes awareness of truth. The idea of light embodies truth in its purest form, while the dark emits the idea of naiveté and false knowledge. As he makes the transition from innocence to experience changes in character occur, heightening tragic feeling. Paradoxically, it is not until Oedipus becomes physically blind that he is able to first completely see (the truth). Once his truth is accepted he has nothing and is forces to step down into nothingness, the proving, like his people said, It would have been better to die than live in blindness.