I'm writing an essay that is supposed to make an argument as to what the overall message or theme of the play is. I would really like if someone could help me with making my thesis stronger and help me with points that would make the essay a lot stronger. I know I have to go and put in more citations than what is already in it. Thanks ahead of time for your help.
Author Samuel Butler once wrote, "A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide." Even people that have great vision and can literally "see," can still be "blind" to truth and complete understanding of it. Throughout the tragedy Oedipus the King, Sophocles' repeatedly bring up the idea of sight and uses it as a metaphor for insight and knowledge. The protagonist of the play, Oedipus, is "blind" to the fact that the fate that he had tried so hard to avoid, had come true without him knowing of it, while the physically blind prophet Tiresias was the one who can actually "see" and understand the truth and the actions that had already occurred.
When Oedipus was just a baby he was taken away from Thebes to be left on a barren mountain to die after an oracle had told his father Laius, "that doom would strike him down at the hands of a son"(1176). The shepherd who was instructed to kill baby Oedipus, felt sorry for the newborn and figured that it would be just as effective to let the baby grow up in a far away city, so that he would never know or meet his biological parents. The shepherd took him to the city of Corinth where he was raised by Polybus and Merope, members of the royal family. Laius and Jocasta assumed that there baby was killed but never went and sought for proof. This reluctance to think that someone might have pity on a baby that is only days old contributed to the inability to know the truth. Oedipus grew up believing that the royal family of Corinth was his biological family and was never told that he was adopted. This is the first instance where it is apparent that Oedipus himself was truly "blind" to the truth of his history that would ultimately lead him to create his own demise.
Later in Oedipus' life, he overheard a drunken man say that he was not his father's son. After telling who he thought was his real parents the man's claim, they assured him it was false and mad at the man who spoke those words. Oedipus was satisfied but still went to see an oracle. The oracle told him, "You are fated to couple with your mother, you will bring a breed of children into the light no man can bear to see- you will kill your father, the one who gave you life!" (1178) Oedipus scared of what he heard left Corinth never to return so that this prophesy had no way of coming true. On his journey away from Corinth he was harassed by a group of travelers and he had to kill the group singlehandedly in self-defense. He came to Thebes who had just had their king murdered at a crossroads and was busy trying to solve the riddle of the sphinx. The citizens of Thebes inability to solve the riddle caused them to not seek out their past leaders killer. Oedipus quickly solved the riddle once arriving in the city and the citizens were so impressed with his knowledge and insight that Oedipus was named King of Thebes. By being praised and being seen as a role model, caused him to believe that he was superior to most. This cockiness continued to contribute to his blindness of the situation that had occurred. You would think that a new king would ask questions about a preceding ruler especially one that was murdered. He married Jocasta, unknowingly that she was his biological mother.. Oedipus was "blinded" to the fact that the prophecy that he worked so hard to avoid had come true without anyone's knowledge of what damage had already occurred.
Later on, the city of Thebes was suffering from a horrendous plague that would only go away if the murderer of Thebes' previous king, Laius, was either killed or banished from the city. The citizens had great respect and confidence in their current king Oedipus, and begged him for help so they would not die like so many others that already had from the plague. Oedipus sends for a physically blind prophet named Tiresias to disclose to him everything that he knows about the murder of Laius.
Tiresias immediately recognizes Oedipus when he arrives in Corinth and refuses to tell him what he knows. Oedipus gets upset with the blind prophet and mocks him by saying things such as, " Tiresias tells him, "You are the curse, the corruption of the land!" Oedipus is quick to call Tiresias a liar and the prophet is quick to counter by saying:
you mock my blindness?
Let me tell you this.
You with your precious eyes,
you're blind to the corruption of your life,
to the house you live in, those you live with-
who are your parents? Do you know? All unknowing
you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood
It is at this time Oedipus is informed of what might be although he still is extremely doubtful. Oedipus begins to question his own knowledge of the truth for the first time. He realizes that he may have been mistaken his entire life.
Oedipus goes to his wife Jocasta to tell of the events that had just occurred. He was informed that there was a survivor of the group that was with Laius at the time of his murder. Oedipus demanded that the survivor come back to Corinth and tell him if he was Laius' killer. The man returned to Corinth and immediately recognized Oedipus as the murderer of Laius. Jocasta was so sickened with the fact that the horrible prophecy that she thought she eliminated years before had come true, that she hanged herself. When Oedipus found her dead body, he took the pins out of her robe and stabbed his eyes so he would not see the harm that he had caused due to blindness of knowledge and truth behind his own history.
Although Oedipus was renowned for his knowledge and insight, his "blindness" of the truth about his past had caused him to have the same fate, as was prophesized in his early years. Although his father, mother, and himself did everything they thought they could do to make sure it did not occur, Oedipus true lack of knowledge led to his own downfall and the downfall of his own family. Whether fate can be avoided or not, depends on the ability "see" and understand the truth.
"I See," Said The Blind Man
Sophocles certainly wasn't shy about the motif of sight vs. blindness. If you've got way too much time on your hands (or want to write an awesome essay) go through the play and highlight words like "see," "sight," "vision," "eyes," and "blind." Since this motif is symbolic of the pursuit of "knowledge," you can go ahead add that word, along with terms like "oracle," "truth," "prophecy," and "Apollo," since he's the god that represents all these ideas.
The Oracle of Shmoop predicts that your highlighter will run out of ink, and your book will end up looking like a neon patchwork quilt.
Though this motif of seeing and not seeing is laced throughout the beginning of the play, it first becomes crystal clear when the prophet Teiresias hobbles on stage. If one of Sophocles' ancient audience members missed the irony in this episode, he must've visited the wine stand a few too many times.
Teiresias is literally blind, but he can see clearly the horror that is Oedipus' past, present, and future. Oedipus' eyes work just fine, but unfortunately he's completely blind to the dreadful fate the gods have placed upon him. The doomed king's ignorance on this key matter is made even more ironic by the fact that he was made famous for his keen insight, by solving the riddle of the Sphinx.
In fact, Oedipus gets peevish with Teiresias and calls into question his powers as a "seer" because he failed to see through the Sphinx's mind-game:
This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind. Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk? And yet the riddle was not to be solved By guess-work but required the prophet's art; Wherein thou wast found lacking; neither birds Nor sign from heaven helped thee, but I came, The simple Oedipus; I stopped her mouth. (389-398)
Oh, the irony.
When Oedipus finally sees the terrible truth of his life, Sophocles hammers home his metaphor by having the king stab out his own eyes. Oedipus says he does this because he can no longer look on the horrors that his unwitting actions have created.
With this most famous of gougings (at least until Game of Thrones brought them back into vogue) Oedipus literally becomes the thing he's always metaphorically been: blind. At the end of the play, Oedipus becomes symbolic of all of humanity, stumbling forward through a dark and unknowable universe.