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Truth In Oedipus The King Essay

Truth is not intended to bring contentment but make people face the realities of their lives which can be unsettling for some. In Oedipus the King, by Sophocles this is demonstrated. Oedipus is given away as a child because his parents were told that he inevitably would kill his father and marry his mother. This same prophecy follows Oedipus as he grows and leads him to run away from the kingdom that raised him. On his road away, he ends up killing a group of men which leads him to another kingdom.

There he marries the dead king’s wife, little does Oedipus realize he had killed his father and married his mother. Sophocles uses the blindness motif in this play, in order to explain how the truth can be too much for people to bear so they would rather stay blind, through Oedipus’ initial ignorance and then his decision to ignore the realities of his life. Particularly, Sophocles manifests Oedipus’ blindness through another character. Oedipus in trying to uncover who murdered the previous King, he calls to a blind prophet Teiresias. In asking the prophet who the murder is, Oedipus insults his blindness.

In response Teiresias says, “Since you have taunted me with being blind, here is my word for you. You have your eyes, but you see not where you are in sin, nor where you live, nor whom you live with” (480-481). Teiresias’ blindness illustrates just how ignorant Oedipus is to the truth. Although Teiresias is the blind one he is still able to see the truth where Oedipus is unable to. Teiresias takes it a step further in saying, “Do you know who your parents are? Unknowing you are an enemy to kith and kin in death, beneath the earth, and in this life” (484-485).

Thus pointing out the extent of Oedipus’ ignorance. Not only does Oedipus not know the sin he has done, but he does not even know who his parents are. Oedipus’ blindness covers more than the actions he has done in his life, but also who he actually is. Blindness is only something that stays for so long until Oedipus sees the truth. Even though Oedipus is blind to the truth in front of him the truth still exists. Oedipus believes that he is married to a woman he has no relation to, and that the parents he left behind are in fact his own.

Teiresias, no longer willing to allow Oedipus to be blind says,” he shall be proved father and brother both to his own children in his own house; to her that gave him birth, a son and husband both; a fellow sower in his father’s bed with the same father he murdered” (535- 539). Oedipus himself was ignorant to the fact that he married his mother and then is by blood the father and brother to his children. Regardless to the fact that, Oedipus is unaware of such circumstances they are still the true. In fact ignorance can not inhibit truth from being true.

There is only so long Oedipus could be blind to the facts in front of him before he is truly able to see. After Teiresias’ words Oedipus begins to question his wife, Jocasta, about her previous husband’s murder. All she says leads him to fear that in fact he killed him. Jocasta mentions a shepherd who was still alive that witnessed the murder, so Oedipus decides that in order to figure out if he was the murder he would question the Shepard. In refrence to questioning the shepherd, Oedipus says to Jocasta, “T’ll tell you; if I find that his story is the same as yours, I at least will be clear of this guilt” (974-975).

Oedipus has guilt inside himself because he is aware that he killed the king. His guilt is which leads him to question another person about the murder because he is in denial of the truth. The truth which has already been told to Oedipus once is not enough for him to except it, for he wishes to stay blind to the truth in order to make life easier for himself, although he knows the truth. Blindness may be removed from Oedipus, but Oedipus wishes to stay blind to the truth, since he can not handle it. Furthermore, Oedipus knows the truth of his actions and who his parents truly are but can not handle it.

Once the truth is uncovered that Oedipus is in fact the murder of his father and married to his mother, his mother kills herself. In seeing this, Oedipus makes the decision to blind himself physically in order to not have to see the results of his sins. “A brothers hands which turned your father’s eyes, those bright eyes you knew once, to what you see, a father seeing nothing, knowing nothing, be getting you from his our source of life” (1670-16730). Oedipus’ words are to his daughters once he has blinded himself and wished to be banished. Oedipus himself points out that in fact he is their brother and father.

Also that in that realization he blinded himself with his hands in order to “see nothing” and “know nothing”. In having the metaphoric blindness removed from Oedipus in him knowing the truth, he physically takes it upon himself to put the blindness back by stabbing his eyes. Oedipus believes that if he is incapable of seeing anything, then in fact that truth which he knows to be true does not exist. The idea that the truth is too overwhelming for him to handle, “to this guilt I bore witness against myself with what eyes shall I look upon my people” (1560).

Therefore, not having eyes makes it impossible for him to witness the reactions of the people he governs, once they know the truth. Keeping himself ignorant not only to what he has done, but to the extent of what his actions mean to other people. In seeing the truth Oedipus is ashamed and once more wishes to be in denial again so he blinds himself, but being blind can not take the truth away. In life truth may be too much for people to deal with so they would prefer to stay blind to it. Oedipus exemplifies this in his conversation with Teiresias and how he is told he is ignorant to the truth.

Then, once presented with the truth he is in denial and continues to hid from the fact that he is a murder. Finally, Oedipus physically blinds himself from the truth when he can no longer hid from the truth. Being blind to the truth while it may be convenient ultimately hurts a person. Oedipus’ constant desire to stay blind from the truth is what leads him to inflict pain upon himself when he stabs his eyes. While the truth may not bring contentment to a person, it will prove more fruitful to not be ignorant.

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