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Oedipus Essay, Research Paper

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 Tiresias (469-472) In the story Oedipus the King, Sophocles demonstrates the imagery of sight versus blindness through the use of tragedy, ignorance and dramatic irony

The story begins with Oedipus arrival at Thebes as a stranger. He comes to find the town under the curse of a sphinx that will only free the city if her riddle is answered correctly. Oedipus answers the sphinx riddle correctly, freeing the city and because the original emperor was recently murdered, he gains the crown and the empress of Thebes. Years later, Oedipus comes to find out that he is not only a Theban, but also the son of the emperor. He had been ordered to death by the emperor because of a prophecy that he would murder his father and wed his mother. Through an act of kindness his life was spared and when and oracle told Oedipus of the prophecy he left what he thought was his home and parents vowing to never return again. On his way to Thebes he runs into a caravan and after a heated discussion he becomes infuriated and murders the entire caravan. He relates this to the death of the original emperor and realizes that he has killed his father and married his mother making the prophecy true. Horrified, he blinds himself and leaves Thebes forever.

Sophocles wrote his tragedy Oedipus the King, he based it on the well-known story of Oedipus, which the Greek already knew and loved. Sophocles concentrated on the events directly leading to Oedipus destruction, portraying Oedipus as a helpless pawn of fate.

Sophocles used a literary device called dramatic irony. Without this literary device, Sophocles would not have been able to maintain the audience s interest since the conclusion and the events leading up to it were obvious to everyone. To bypass this difficulty, Sophocles saturates his play in dramatic irony, riveting the audience with the awareness that they know more than Oedipus, letting them cringe with the delicious knowledge of the misfortunes he will face. Sophocles employs the blindness of Oedipus to such advantage that he creates an atmosphere similar to the modern horror film, in which the audience knows the inevitable fate of the character but is too pleased with the horror to forgo the journey. With this literary device Sophocles was able to show how Oedipus although capable of seeing with his own two eyes, he is blind to the truth.

Speak up, old man. Your years, your dignity you should speak for others. Why here and kneeling, what preys upon you so, some sudden fear, some strong desire? You can trust me. I am ready to help I ll do anything. I would be blind to misery not to misery not to pity my people kneeling at my feet. (9-15) The words of this opening dialogue reveal much about Oedipus character. Everyone presented so far is blind to the truth; but the ignorance of the people is understood. They adore and love Oedipus for releasing them from the Sphinx and for his dignity and judicious rulings as their leader. There is no doubt that Oedipus cares for the well being of his people. He does, however, take too much credit for himself when he states, but sick as you are, not one is sick as I. (73) In this line, Oedipus demonstrates the overbearing, impetuous personality, which brought about the entire situation in the first place. The irony is that he says far more than what he realizes. He uses the word sick on two different levels: emotional and physical distress. In his blindness he does not see what is apparent to the audience that he truly is sick but not physically or emotionally but because he sowed the loins his father sowed, he spilled his fathers blood later told by Tiresias.

Oedipus speaks with his brother-in-law Creon, whom he had sent to inquire of the Oracle at Delphi, returns with a message from the gods. Having allowed the adulation of the people go to his head, he cannot shake the vision of hero-protector and still arrogantly regards himself as the only hope to save the city. At this point, his delusions are masked by his concern for the people; yet they foreshadow the ugly hubris he will manifest plainly when he basically accuses Teiresias and Creon of treachery for revealing the truth later on. Oedipus self-perception, though delusive, is at the same time accurate-in an ironic way. Seated on the thrown of Thebes noted for glory and honor, Oedipus does not anticipate the fury with which the gods look down upon him, and he remains unaware that he alone can propitiate them. He desires to root out the brigand that has caused his people so much suffering and is prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to save his city, but not in the fashion required of him.

Oedipus begins to accuse Teiresias of being involved in a conspiracy with Creon to over throw him. He throw insults at Teiresias but not for you, old man/ you ve lost your power/stone-blinded, stone-deaf-senses/eyes blind as stone Teiresias replies that although Oedipus can see now, the truth will eventually blind him and cause him to loose all he has.

Oedipus remains blind to the truth until he can deny it no longer. After hearing the testimony of the herdsman it is perfectly clear to Oedipus at last that he has fulfilled the prophecy and has caused the great suffering and misfortune of Thebes. Upon discovering this he goes to Jocasta who had overheard what was told and had killed herself. He removes the long gold pins holding her robes and plunges them into his eyes stating that he will see no more pain that he has suffered or caused and that he was blind to everything he wanted to see and that from now on he will see no more.


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