Sight but No Vision

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 84
  • Published: March 11, 2013
Read full document
Text Preview
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 meaning; Oedipus will literally go from a sighted man to a blind man, but also metaphorically his outlook on life will darken after he discovers the truth about himself. Tiresias’ lines often combine the metaphorical and literal implication of sight, as exemplified in the previous statement, therefore allowing the audience to interpret their significance interchangeably. Additionally to his paradox, the character of Tiresias is also, when primarily introduced, a contrasting figure to Oedipus. While Tiresias is a man with the ability to understand the truth without the use of physical vision, Oedipus is the exact opposite; a sighted man who is symbolically blind to the truth of his existence. Tiresias confirms this claim by stating to Oedipus that “[he] with [his] precious eyes, [is] blind to the corruption of [his] life [.]” (Sophocles 470-471) By the use of this character foil, Sophocles again emphasizes the focus on emblematic sight and blindness. While Tiresias is a foil to Oedipus during the commencement of the play, in hindsight he can be seen foreshadowing what Oedipus will eventually become. As a blind old man capable of seeing the truth, Tiresias is a representation of what will inevitably befall Oedipus. After Oedipus learns the truth about his past and subsequently rakes out his own eyes (Sophocles 1306-1405) he emerges as a depressing exemplar of Tiresias’ character. In addition to this fact, as Oedipus makes a mockery of Tiresias’ blindness, telling the seer that he is “stone-blind, stone-deaf – senses, eyes blind as stone” (Sophocles 424), the ruler begins to sound ironic to the audience who are conscious of his impending fate. Supplementary to Tiresias physiognomy, his prophesies concerning Oedipus are also illustrations of foreshadowing. Tiresias implies that someone will become “blind who now has eyes” (Sophocles 517) obviously referring to Oedipus imminent disability. Similarly, the psychic also predicts the truths which Oedipus will eventually come to...
tracking img