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Oedipus Rex - The Blind Leading the Blind

Blindness In Oedipus Rex - The Blind Leading the Blind

Some say that ignorance is bliss. Perhaps this is true. If one is unaware of his or her wrongs, then no guilt will be felt. Perhaps those who can't see the forest for the trees do so because they fear the truth. We all as human beings try to escape the bad and ugly things in our lives, especially that which is bad or ugly about ourselves. Sometimes we all blind ourselves to the truth. Oedipus Rex clearly illustrates this theme of blindness, both literally and symbolically.

Teireisias is a "seer: student of mysteries"(1263) who is called upon by Oedipus to reveal Laios's murderer. Although physically blind, Teireisias is not blind to the truth; it is Oedipus that is ignorant of his actions. Teireisias attempts to avoid revealing the identity of King Laios's murder. However, in anger brought about by Oedipus's badgering, he names the king as the murderer. Teireisias then tries to open Oedipus's eyes to the truth as he declares "You yourself are the pollution of this country." (1263). Later he tells Oedipus "…you, with both your eyes, are blind…" (1266).

Oedipus, although physically sighted, is blind to his own wrongs. He is ignorant of his dual relationship to the former king and his present wife. Teireisias tells Oedipus "You cannot see the wretchedness of your own life,…You do not even know the blind wrongs that you have done to them [Laios and Iocaste], on earth and the world below," (1266). Even after Teireisias warns him, he refuses to acknowledge the truth. He only turns a deaf ear, or more appropriately, a blind eye, to the truth.

After a shepherd and a messenger confirm Teirisias's accusation, Oedipus gains full awareness of what he has done. A second messenger relates the ensuing events. Iocaste takes her own life. Oedipus upon sight of this "ripped from her gown the golden brooches…and plunged them down straight into his own eyeballs…"(1288). The king says to his own eyes, "No more shall you look on the misery about me,…too long have you known the faces of those whom I should never have seen, too long been blind to those for whom I was searching!"(1291).

What can make a man go blind, can also help him see? The answer is sand. Sand can scar the cornea, causing blindness or can be melted down to make glasses. It is ironic...

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