The Blind Oedipus
Nicholas Coleman Prof. Shemak English 265 2 October 2009 The Blind Oedipus Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance keeps us blind, yet it frees us from the painful stare of truth. A false paradise is created under the veil of knowledge that is simply not present. The theme of vision and blindness is significant in Oedipus Rex because throughout the play, the truth was always beyond the characters grasp, and without truth the actions carried out by the characters were done in blindness.
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Their views and behaviors are direct evidence of their inability to see what was in front of them. The consequences for these blind activities spanned the whole play, and the lessons did not seem to be learned, as if they too were shrouded in darkness themselves. Vision, or the lack of, is very common. From the first account of Oedipus’s misjudgment about the prophecy that foretold that the killer of the previous king was still in Thebes, Oedipus instantly blamed Creon, “Wealth, power, craft of statesmanship! Kingly position, everywhere admired!
What savage envy is stored up against these, if Creon, whom I trusted, Creon my friend, for this great office which the city one put in my hands unsought- if for this power Creon desires in secret to destroy me”(21). This accusation was made in complete ignorance. Not only is Oedipus blind to the truth of the true identity of the wrongdoer, but he blindly accuses his right hand man. There is no shred of evidence to support this blind claim, and this fact makes the observation of his ignorance being his blindness more evident.
These blind accusations can also be observed when Oedipus turns a deaf ear to Teiresias’s words, “You are king… I am not your servant, but Apollo’s. I have no need of Creon to speak for me. Listen to me. You mock my blindness, do you? But I say that you, with both your eyes, are blind: You cannot see the wretchedness…. who are your mother and father? You do not know the blind wronging you have done them, on earth and in the world below”(22). Teiresias observes and even goes as far as to compare Oedipus’s blindness to his own.
But this comparison hits a fork in the road and separates at the point to where the ignorance of Oedipus blinds him to his own wretchedness. In this observation, the significance of vision is increased due to do the juxtaposition of the blind wise man, and the ignorant man who can see. The way in which Oedipus’s lack of knowledge is perceived is described as blind, and his assumption for what he think is going on goes back to the theme of vision and blindness, since he is making blind accusations, devout of vision.
Iocaste is also guilty of moving about in the pitch black unknown of ignorance. When she is talking about the past with her son/lover she slowly begins to see the truth but then damns it, Oedipus, and the quest for truth, “Why think of him? Forget this herdsman. Forget it all. This talk is a waste of time…. for God’s love, let us have no more questioning! Is your life nothing to you? My own pain is enough for me to bear…. listen to me, I beg you: do not do this thing! …everything that I say is for your own good! .. you are fatally wrong. May you never know who you are!.. Ah miserable! That is the only word I have for you now. That is the only word I can ever have”(56-57). The truth that has shown itself through the continual questioning of Iocoste and Oedipus has created a situation to where their truth and reality become one. Even when this happens Iocoste resorts back to ignorance, or the place of her bliss, the place where she is queen of Thebes, and her Husband is the king.
The moment that her vision became clear, the moment that she could see, she covered her eyes because what she could not bare too look truth back. The blank, cold, unforgiving stare of truth was too much for poor Iocoste, and going back into her room could not shield her. The stare of truth was painful, and the intensity of this pain will prove to be Iocoste’s downfall. Once the paradise of ignorance is compromised, then the truth will start to sprout from the cracks of the shattered perception of paradise.
Once the truth came out about Oedipus, and the fact that he fulfilled the prophesy foretold by Apollo, Oedipus also couldn’t look truth in the face, “Ah God! It was true! All the prophesies! -Now, o light, may I look upon you for the last time! I, Oedipus, dammed in his birth, in his marriage damned, damned in the blood he shed with his own hand! ”(64). The discovery of this fact made Oedipus dread looking upon another thing, whether it is the physical manifestation of his unspeakable act or truth itself. He gouged his eyes out to keep everything from his vision.
There is a sense of irony associated with Oedipus losing his eyesight. The moment that Oedipus has the ability too look upon his surrounding is the actuality of what is going on, he then becomes blind to the outside world. The fact that vision is always symbolized, further proves my point that vision is very significant in this play. The role in which the theme of vision and blindness plays can be described in no other words but monumental. This theme is repeated over and over, and it can be proved in a variety of ways.
The blissfulness of ignorance is continually tore down and rebuilt in this play, or in other words the theme of being blind challenges the behavior of the characters, either in a positive way or a negative outcome. Ignorance can keep us blind, ignorance can keep us bounded to a false since of security. The characters in this play have experienced both the effects of truth and ignorance, and not even the pain that was endured over this long period of time have taught these characters to open their eyes and break out of their false paradise.