In what sense may Oedipus be regarded as a better man, though a less fortunate one, at the end of the play than at the beginning?
What has he gained from his experience?
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In one sense, Oedipus is a better man because he has learned humility. In the play's beginning, Oedipus flies in the face of every warning against trying to discover too much about the mysteries of the gods and trying to change his fate. By the end, he learns that he cannot master his fate, and that some secrets are better left buried. This knowledge comes at a high price (his innocence), so high, in fact, that he puts out his eyes in order never to see (or know) anything new ever again.
Oedipus' life is now directed by free will instead of fate. At the end of the play, he gouges out his eyes, leaves Thebes, and abandons his daughters. These are all decisions that he makes despite the painful consequences. Though he lives a miserable existence, he is no longer a blind instrument of fate. He is no longer an instrument that belongs to the oracle. In this sense, he is a better man.
Also, ironically, only after he has lost his physical vision, he is able to see and know who he really is. The most noble and wise man in the play is the blind seer, Tireisias. Blindness, thus, is emblematic of good men in the Theban plays. It is blindness that allows one to overcome hubris and move beyond the control of the gods.
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