Oedipus the King: Sight but No Vision

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Melissa Cann
Sight but No Vision

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. – Helen Keller Throughout Sophocles’ Oedipus the King the metaphors of sight and blindness are exercised frequently. It is understood that the references to eyesight correspond to wisdom, knowledge, and truth while, comparably, the indication of blindness is a suggestion of futility. By the use of these recurrent symbols, Sophocles states that although some humans are gifted with the power of knowledge, they are not as enlightened as those with the capability of insight and intuitiveness. Sophocles juxtaposes the themes of ignorance and insight by use of the characters Oedipus and Tiresias. Oedipus is knowledgeable and able to see, but he does not have the same vision as the blind prophet Tiresias. By contrasting the strengths and weaknesses of the two characters, the author tempts the reader to investigate the importance of the motifs of sight and blindness. With focus on the actions, dialogue, and monologue of Oedipus and Tiresias, we can analyze the playwright’s objective to draw attention to knowledge, or lack thereof, through the accounts of vision, as well as unseeing eyes. The unmistakable irony of the character Tiresias is verification of Sophocles purpose to highlight the dominance of insight. As a blind seer Tiresias’ role is ironic, being that although he is physically blind, he can “see” father than anyone. Oedipus himself states this fact when he first greets Tiresias saying, “Blind as you are, you can feel all the more what sickness haunts our city.”(Sophocles 344-345) Furthermore, not only is Tiresias an incongruity in himself but his dialogue with Oedipus is also satirical in context. As a clairvoyant, Tiresias knows that Oedipus will blind himself, saying that the “darkness [will shroud] [the king’s] eyes that can now see the light [.]”(Sophocles 478-479) This statement is ironic not because it is sarcastic, but because it has a double...
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