Blindness can refer to a literal and explicit meaning which both lead to the same definition, without vision. It limits the understanding of many by clouding their thoughts and leads to the idea of only seeing the tip of an iceberg, rather than what’s underneath the surface. In Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles, the main theme is shown through the blindness of Oedipus versus the sight he gains near the end. This is revealed through the reversal of situations in which darkness and light are included. He incorporates Oedipus’ ignorance, oblivion, and period of realization in order to capture the essence of the archetypes of blindness, sight, light, and darkness, and how they create the dramatic irony presented in the book.
Near the beginning of the book, Oedipus is tied down by his blindness and his arrogance, and believes that he is unbeatable since he beat the Sphinx. As Oedipus explains the plan of avenging King Laius’ death by finding the murderer, he states, “Whoever killed King Laos might- who knows?-/ Decide at any moment to kill me as well. By avenging the murdered king I protect myself” (9). This represents the explicit meaning of blindness because Oedipus has no context in order to figure out the murderer, so his only option is to revert to the ignorance of the clues surrounding him. With the use of the phrase, ‘decide any moment to kill me as well,’ Oedipus disregards the fact that he himself has admitted to being the son of Laos. He decides to analyze the tip of the iceberg, which is that the death of King Laos’ is horrible, and lets his blindness consume the hypothetical situation where he is the son of Laos.
As the story progresses onwards, Oedipus’ ignorance quickly turns to oblivion, because when warned by Tiresias, Oedipus chooses to believe that he did not kill King Laos, and instead insults the prophet in order to prove himself right. During their conversation Oedipus claims, “Say what you will. Whatever you say is worthless./(…)/ You sightless, witless, senseless, mad old man” (20). This leads back to the theme because it exemplifies how Oedipus does not want to hear anything against him, so his blindness leads to his downfall. The humorous part begins with the words of Oedipus against Tiresias because, although the prophet may be physically blind, he can still see more into depth than Oedipus can. The constant recurrence of this idea combined with Oedipus’ hubris displays darkness that is yet to shadow Oedipus later in the book.
As Oedipus addresses the concept of light with himself, it demonstrates dramatic irony because everything that he has done so far has been anything but full of light. He states, “Then once more I must bring what is dark to light./ It is most fitting that Apollo shows” (9). This connection between man and light refers back to Oedipus’ oblivion towards the truth, and displays dramatic irony because Oedipus is the one who is bringing the plague to Thebes, not the one who will be able to relieve the city. The inclusion of this archetype represents the power of the gods, especially Apollo, and how they are the ones who will only be able to bring the light back to the city and replenish it.
During Oedipus’ realization of the truth, he regains his sight and tries to bring light to Thebes by, “Let me purge my father’s Thebes of the pollution/ Of my living here, and go out to the wild hills,/ To Kithairon, that has won such fame with me” (77). Near the end of the book, Oedipus decides to bring light back to Thebes by exiling himself, which he believes will remove all of the evil that was brought there in the first place. This moment represents his period of realization, which is when he regains his sight, approaches the problem, and decides that light will be brought back with him gone
As Tiresias speaks to Oedipus, he combines Oedipus’ blindness with the fact that darkness will be with him and his fate will get the best of him, “But the double lash of your parents’ curse will/whip you/Out of this land someday, with only night/Upon your precious eyes” (23). With the use of the words ‘whip you,’ and ‘night upon your precious eyes,’ it can be inferred that Oedipus’ curse will never be lifted and will always stay with him no matter what. Night can be correlated with darkness, and so when it hits Oedipus’ eyes, it means that darkness will once again consume him if he doesn’t admit to his faults and attempt to make it better. This displays Oedipus’ oblivion, and how he is still barely scratching the surface of the iceberg.
Oedipus’ ignorance, oblivion, and period of realization are all lead by his blindness, which later turns into his sight. Along with that, the mixture of light and darkness are after effects of Oedipus’ decisions in the story, and they are the determining factor of Oedipus’ fate. The simplicity of these archetypes provide the humor needed in this play, and provide contrasts between what oedipus thinks and what is actually going on.