Seeing but not Perceiving

-college paper on Oedipus Rex


Imagery is the manipulation of language to express the human senses.

Through reoccurring comparisons of sight and blindness, Sophacles integrates meaningful imagery into Oedipus Rex. This produced an undercurrent of foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism.

An example of such foreshadowing appears early in the play. As the priest addresses Oedipus, the words “Your own eyes” stand alone, spaced all the way to the right side of the page on line 25. Already, the reader’s attention is focused on the eyes of Oedipus, which will later be destroyed. Teiresias brings an obvious piece of foreshadowing when he prophesies that the murderer is “a blind man, who has eyes now.” This means that the murder can see now, but will be blind in the future. Teiresias is referring to what Oedipus will do to himself when he finds out who he is.

While Oedipus has his physical sight he is blind to his true origin. When he finally does see the truth he blinds himself physically, stabbing himself in the eyes repeatedly. Irony, such as this, is seen throughout Oedipus Rex. For example, Teiresias, the ‘seer’, was himself a blind man, yet, ironically enough, he ‘sees’ into the future.

Sight and blindness also symbolically represent knowledge and ignorance. When the Sphinx plagued Thebes with her riddle Oedipus brought what was “dark to light.” His knowledge of the riddle’s answer lifted the darkness, or ignorance, from Thebes. Also, Oedipus couldn’t see “the wretchedness” of his life even while he had “both of his eyes”. Teiresias was saying his ignorance made him blind, in spite of his physical vision, and that he would not have sight until he gained full knowledge of who he was.

The phrase “What you can’t see can’t hurt you” may come to the readers mind after reading Oedipus Rex. In the end it was his sight that blinded him. Throughout Oedipus Rex images of sight and blindness sculpt underlying themes of foreshadowing, irony, and symbolism.See

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