Oedipus: Sight vs. Blindness
The concept of sight versus blindness mentioned throughout Sophocles famous work Oedipus Rex is truly representative of the idea of knowledge versus ignorance, and it used by this playwright to highlight the ignorance and tragic self-discovery of Oedipus. Many of Sophocles characters, including the king himself, incorporate this motif of light versus darkness into their analysis of both Oedipus and the situation at hand.
Many statements made by Oedipus in this play show not only the conflict between others knowledge and his ignorance, but also the irony of what he believes to be true. In one scene, Oedipus summons Tiresias to him in order to find out who murdered Laius. When the blind prophet refuses to tell him, the king becomes enraged. …except for you; …blind as you are in eyes, ears and mind! …You cannot hurt me, nor any…who beholds the light, your life being all one night (Sophocles 14). In this statement, Oedipus makes no distinction between physical blindness and close-mindedness. The mistaken king also implies that he knows the truth and Tiresias does not, revealing the irony of his statement.
Later on in the play, another reference is made to the motif of sight versus blindness. Once Oedipus learns of his role in the death of Laius and realizes the truth of the earlier prophecy, he is distraught. He runs inside and finds his wife hanging there, dead, and then proceeds to poke his own eyes out, as we are told by a Messenger. …smote the nerves of his own eyeballs, saying…they should see no more evils; darkling, …let them gaze on forms they might not see, and fail to recognize the faces he desired (Sophocles 45). This passage once again shows Oedipus equating physical blindness with ignorance, as he removes his sight in hopes of removing the knowledge of the terrible deeds he has performed.
One final location in which Sophocles denotes the concept of sight versus blindness being analogous to knowledge versus ignorance is towards the end of the play. Oedipus speaks to the first Senator about all that has happened during the play and before, and tells him directly his thoughts on what he has learned. Was I, who in myself made evident so dark a stain, with unaverted eyes to look on these? That least of all! (Sophocles 49). This quotation of Oedipus shows the reason why he stabbed out his own eyes: so that he who made so much pain, would never again see anything which he desired, nothing beautiful whatsoever. By removing his sight, he would remove any means of gaining knowledge.
The conflict of sight versus blindness can easily be equated with the concepts of knowledge versus ignorance and light versus darkness. Sophocles uses these ideas effectively in highlighting the ignorance and enlightenment of Oedipus throughout the play, proving that Sophocles himself must believe that knowledge is key in life, and anyone who is ignorant is truly living in darkness.