Oedipus the King: the Story of the Consequences of a Curse Placed on King Oedipus
In the city of Thebes, there is a plague of infertility that strikes. Just as the plants do not grow so is women not able to bear children. Creon informs King Oedipus that until the killer of King Laius is identified, the plague cannot be ended. Oblivious to the truth, King Oedipus sets to find out who the killer is and swears to punish the individual. Most of the times, people may have their physical sight, but blind themselves for fear of seeing the truth. These are people who are oblivious to the realities which could be cruel. Such people chose not to see the realities of life. Therefore, Sophocles “”Oedipus the King talks about people who have physical sight and are blind who refuse to see and to see the truth about life respectively. The play’s characters hesitate to uncover the greatest misjudgment of the god’s power, and this is portrayed through the theme of blindness.
Why Was Oedipus Cursed?
Sophocles in Oedipus the King, shows that there are characters who willingly chose to ignore facts and truths to avoid experiencing their fate. These people believe that they can change their fates through their actions. They are characters that have physical sight, but are oblivious to the truth. They see the truth and understand it, but soon blinds themselves again. For example, Jocasta and King Laius, are well aware of the power of the gods but chooses to ignore it. They order Oedipus to be killed to avert the curse of the gods, but he is instead rescued by a shepherd (Sophocles 29). Even though the King and Queen have actual sight, they are blind because they believe they have the capacity to avert the curse and reverse the fate through their decisions. They fail to understand that mortals are incapable of altering the course of fates the moment they are generated by the gods. In the Greek land, mortals have never been able to avert any fates predicted by the gods. When the gods make a prediction, it must come to pass. This occurs in the case of King Oedipus. However, both Jocasta and Laius fail to understand that the oracle’s prediction is inevitable hence cannot be changed by any mortal being.
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Jocasta in Oedipus
Jocasta also tells Oedipus that they should not believe in the power of the gods, seers or prophets. Moreover, Jocasta strives hard to avoid her fate and what awaits her. When Jocasta finds out the truth about who Oedipus really is and that he killed Jocasta’s first husband, the King, she chooses to blind herself to avoid seeing the truth presented to her. Characters are afraid of knowledge and truth more so when they instill fear in the people. Jocasta states, Why should a man whose life seems ruled by chance live in fear a man who never looks ahead, who has no certain vision of his future? (Sophocles 25). Since Jocasta wants to believe the opposite of the facts, she goes ahead to try to convince Oedipus to also join her bandwagon. However, she removes her veil of blindness to the truth and hangs herself for she does not like what she sees.
Creon also chooses to blind himself to the truth. When Creon is accused of eyeing the throne, he says that he does not want to handle all the problems that entail managing the City of Thebes. Instead, Creon prefers being just the brother of the King hence blinding himself from such truths as overtaking the throne from his brother Oedipus (Sophocles 13). Additionally, Oedipus is exposed to several clues about who he is but he chooses to ignore the hints as the truth is cruel. He was first accused by a drunken man to be a bastard. Secondly, he was told by the blind prophet that he was the killer of the King Laius (Sophocles 24). Thirdly, the messenger told Oedipus that the people who raised him were not his actual parents. Still, he did not believe the truth. However, when the herdsman confirmed these clues, Oedipus understood that the god Apollo’s predictions were in fact right. Clearly, Oedipus was blind to the realities of his life.
People in Thebes fear truths often choosing to display their ignorance in most circumstances. Blindness means ignorance. Sophocles establishes that being blind from the reality and truth equals being safe from one’s own destiny. When Oedipus is blind to the truth, he is protected because he is not aware of the prophecy which will not come true. In killing King Laius, Oedipus believes he killed a random person as his parents were Queen and King of Corinth. The moment Oedipus learns of the truth, people come to understand the prophecy (Sophocles 27). In the event that Oedipus was not informed of the truth by the oracle, he would have continued being a King and leading a normal life.
Similarly, there are the kinds of people that wish they had never seen the truth. This is shown mostly by the choruses all through the play. For instance, the choruses sing, “”O child of Laius, how I wish I’d never seen you (Sophocles 29). Through this, it is clear that the chorus wishes to be blind to the truth because the truth is ugly. This incident occurs just after shepherd acknowledges that indeed he did not obey the queen’s order to kill her son. People in that place understand that Oedipus is the son that was not killed and that the prophecy came true. Similarly, choruses wish that they had not seen Oedipus after the second messenger describes Oedipus and Jocasta’s agony. While Jocasta hangs herself, Oedipus, on the other hand, gouges his eyes out.
Characters that experience physical blindness are used to represent various background truths regarding the prophecy. The irony is that those who have physical blindness see the truth while those who have sight do not see the truth. In the play, there are truths such as Oedipus being the lost son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta. Other truths include Oedipus being the one who killed the King as earlier prophesied. In the beginning, Oedipus has his complete physical sight, but is blind to his historical background. Oedipus, as expected, fulfilled the god’s prophecy as he married his mother, and is the killer of King Laius. Nevertheless, the first physical blindness is that of Teiresias, who is an old prophet. Tiresias’s physical blindness represents the truth about the life story and the birth of Oedipus. Through his powers, Teiresias manages to uncover the truth about who killed King Laius (Sophocles 17). Sadly, the killer is Oedipus and he is not pleased about it. Clearly, Oedipus who has physical sight does not see the truth while Tiresias, who is blind sees the truth. Similarly, Oedipus tore off the brooches from Jocasta’s clothing, then uses the pins to gouge his eyes out, hence permanently blinding himself (Sophocles 33). Oedipus physical blindness is used to represent an individual’s fear of facts and truths. When Oedipus finds out that he killed his father, married and had children with his mother and witnessed the death of Jocasta, who is hanging in their room, he refuses to see. As a result of his pride, Oedipus decides to continue being blind as he has been all through his life. To Oedipus, the truth is cruel and hurts his pride.
In conclusion, Sophocles Oedipus the King depicts the theme of blindness, which manifests through the play’s characters’ naivety. In fact, blindness represents ignorance while sight represents knowledge. The theme of blindness is clearly one of the play’s key themes. Additionally, the characters of the play fail to understand that they cannot avert fate as predicted by the oracle. No single mortal in the Greek world had ever managed to avert the will of the god’s, and Laius and Jocasta were not able to change fate. Similarly, Oedipus the King could not escape his fate as predicted by the gods. The aspect of having physical sight and truly being able to see all is shown all through the play. It is through this aspect that the theme of blindness arises from. This theme is also tied together with the fate of King Oedipus. When the King finally removes his veil and understands the truth about his fate, he chooses to blind himself.