Throughout the play Oedipus the King the theme of blindness can be seen. Sophocles uses Tiresias as a major vehicle in establishing this theme. Tiresias’ physical blindness is used to accentuate Oedipus’ blindness to the truth of his past, and present. Tiresias is a prophet of Apollo and can see the corruption of Oedipus’ life despite the fact that he is blind and therefore cannot physically see. Oedipus, however, has physical sight yet is blind to the truth of his life.
As the citizens of Thebes are told to find the killer of Laius to end the plague that has fallen on the city, Oedipus issues a curse upon the killer and those who aid the murderer in remaining hidden. He even goes so far as to issue the curse unto himself: “I curse myself as well… if by any chance he proves to be an intimate of our house, here at my hearth, with my full knowledge may the curse I just called down on him strike me! ” (Sophocles line 285).
Tiresias then informs Oedipus, reluctantly, on the reality of the situation. He tells Oedipus that he is the “corruption of the land” that is causing the plague upon Thebes. Tiresias practically spells out what Oedipus will do to himself once he realizes the truth of his past, and the corruption of the present that it has caused; yet Oedipus still refuses to see reality. It is not until a conversation with his wife Jocasta that Oedipus starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
Slowly but surely Oedipus and the rest of Thebes are presented with evidence revealing the truth about Oedipus’ birth and the circumstances leading to his present situation. No longer able to deny the validity of Tiresias’ accusations, Oedipus blinds himself with the pins that had held up Jocasta’s robes. The significance of Oedipus blinding himself in the end is great. He blinds the eyes that did not help him to see the reality of his world. The truth that Oedipus now understands is too much for him to bear, his blind eyes have put him into the darkness that had shrouded his life until that point.