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Metaphorically Blind as Humanity

Updated on July 10, 2015

In the play Oedipus the King, Sophocles metaphorically refers to all human beings with tragic life events that are blinded by a proud King. While the town of Thebes is suffering at the hands of plague and disease, priests along with ill children prayed to King Oedipus for a cure. Jocasta (Oedipus’ wife/mother) had a brother named Creon who personally delivered a message from the oracle that would cleanse the city.

Creon explains in detail what the oracle requested of Thebes:

The god commands us to expel from the land of Thebes

An old defilement we are sheltering.

It is a deathly thing, beyond cure.

We must not let it feed upon us longer. (Sophocles 99-102)

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The story twists and unfolds only to reveal that Oedipus is in fact refusing to realize truths that are presented before him. Later on a blind prophet (Teiresias) was called upon by King Oedipus who revealed, “I say that you are the murderer whom you seek” (Sophocles 144). Once the king has heard what the prophet said he immediately refused to believe a word and banished him from the palace. This is a common flaw in human nature indeed, because a human being will live their life and turn a blind eye to what they are afraid to know. In the ending Oedipus has finally become the metaphorical reference all along, which was blind.

A proud King, blind to the truths around him, and symbolizing humanity in itself erases these horrors by gouging out his own eyes with Jocasta’s golden brooches. Finally understanding that his wife was also his mother, his children were born of incestation, and murdering his father were all horrors that he refused to see any longer.

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Sophocles. “Oedipus the King”. Trans. Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama Ed. X.J Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage. 2013. 1207-1244. Print

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