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Nov 8, 2017 in Literature

Oedipus the King


Oedipus emerged to be the main character of the play Oedipus the King, considering the circumstances of his life. The paper aims to analyze symbolism of Oedipus the King, its main topic and idea considering people’s fate, theme of blindness and sight.

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The Fate of Oedipus

The fate of Oedipus is underlying element of the play since he could physically see but was blind to the truth. The play is built on the base of antagonism considering people’s fate and possibility to change destiny, contradistinction between Oedipus and blind Tiresias, two distinct personalities. The theme of sight and blindness is one of the main topics in the play. Tiresias was a blind prophet who understood what was happening around him. However, Oedipus was able to see but could not interpret the events in his life. These cases magnified the whole scenario reflecting on the theme of sight and blindness in the play. The play states that fate in life is based on the understanding of our surroundings and happenings but not on what we can physically see.

Oedipus’s fate was well-disposed to him considering that he was rescued in the early childhood by the shepherd. However, his proceeding life was mixed with fortunes and setbacks.  He did not know that his father had ordered to kill him in early childhood. In addition, the young man became the adopted son of Merope and her husband Polybus. The play is full of irony of people‘s lives and fate.

There is a surprising and ironical issue. The person, who ordered to kill his son, turned out to be killed by the son himself in a few years. The occurrence was an interesting and capturing episode of the play. Logically, one may postulate that it was the immediate price that the father had to pay. In this aspect, the father of Oedipus, Laius could have saved his life if he had not had the intention to kill his son in the early childhood. It was a tremendous setback that the son had killed the father in such unavoidable circumstances.

Oedipus became figuratively blind intending to find out who had killed Laius. He did not have a clear vision of the surrounding and could not interpret all things happening around him.  Oedipus could not see the corrupt nature of life. He ironically vowed to find and identify the murderer of Laius. However, he was the person who had killed him. Through his symbolic blindness, he summoned a blind prophet to seek help. The physically blind Tiresias informed the king about his destiny. Tiresias knew all answers to the disturbing questions. It was not easy to believe that a blind person could know the truth of the matter.  This confirmed that understanding of one’s self is important in life and is not based on what is physically seen.  However, the king failed to see the whole truth in Tiresias’ words. In his assertion to Oedipus, the prophet said, “You do not see the evil which you live in”. Oedipus, however, called him a liar and did not believe his words.  In response to Tiresias, Oedipus said, “You have no truth or power”. He continued to lament, “You are blind, your eyes and ears as well as mind”.  This statement is ironical because it meant the opposite. It was Oedipus himself who had shown such claims in his behavior and deeds. Oedipus could neither believe nor explain his link to the murder of Laius. This confirmed that he could not understand what surrounded his life. He could not believe that the blind prophet predicted the events that led to the death of Laius.

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The fact that Tiresias was blind did not hinder him to see the truth. Tiresias knew the facts and the unfolding events in such given circumstances. This was the role of sight as depicted in the play. In general, the play states that a human being is able to demonstrate remarkable powers with intellectual penetration. In addition, people have got high knowledge capacity; however, even the smartest person is always liable for an error at one time, as in the case of Oedipus.

The play reflects irony of people’s existence. Oedipus believed that the prophet who revealed the information had been bribed. He told Tiresias, “was it Creon or you who invented this story”.  He accused Creon of paying the prophet to tarnish his name. He demanded to execute Creon. This was very challenging as everyone was blinded by his own belief. It was only Tiresias who could sincerely understand the circumstances of Oedipus’ life. Community heard the prophecy that the son of Laius could kill his own father. On the contrary, they believed that some bandits had killed Laius. They could not tolerate any prophetic postulations that were given at that time. This showed that they were blind to the truth.

The dramatic inequity was reflected in the way Oedipus investigated the frightful reality on the issue. Even though, he was acquainted with the case, it was tormenting when Oedipus became conscious. The self confident and powerful king blinded himself. The theme of light and darkness was evident when Oedipus harmed his eyes deliberately with an aim to smooth moral pain. This reflected the transitional period from light to darkness as he became blind by the truth and reality. He was blind both in his vision and his thoughts that defined his fate as miserable. The character of Oedipus was reflected in the play as self confident; however, he did not manage to perceive the truth of reality. The king is a key character who embodies the theme of light and darkness in the play. Since he had the most disturbing experiences that were unbearable, the excited king become gloomy at last after realizing that he could not understand his life. Following the events, he could not comprehend the reason for being his father’s own son. This looked simple but very complex in the way it came out in the play. The search for the truth had its consequences, and Oedipus the King knew it. He realized that he had been blind for so long. However, he did not have any hope for the future.

In the concluding scene, Oedipus pierced his eyes to avoid shame. He used a gold chased grip from his wife’s robe. It was very surprising for him to admire blindness at the last hour. He desired to be physically blind and not see the light any more. This reflected the reality of his life. In this case, both literal and figurative references to eyesight are evident in the play. Light and vision served as the insight knowledge. Clear eyed Oedipus was blind to see the truth of his crime. This crime has evidently made him be frustrated with life. That is why he desired blindness because life will never be the same again with the onset of the truth.


Oedipus the King interprets the popular literary theme of people’s fate and their possibility to change destiny. The play is full of symbolism and antagonism. Oedipus’ fate made him a victim of his crime. It was a base of king’s metaphorical blindness. People are weak to change their fate, and king Oedipus is an example of the abovementioned statement. The key topic in the play of sight and blindness is built on the base of antagonism. Blind Tiresias turned out to have a clear vision of the surrounding comparing to fake vision of the king Oedipus.

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