Contrast the appearance versus the reality of Oedipus's actions in Oedipus Rex.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In my mind, the most evident examples of appearance and reality exists in the Oedipus' subjective.  Oedipus believes one aspect to be the truth, while the reality is quite different. This lies in his rejection of the oracle and its prophecies, as well as his dismissive attitudes towards Teiresias.  Throughout the play, Oedipus believes his own subjectivity over the conditions of reality that might threaten such a vision.  It might be this desire to believe the appearances and constructs of consciousness that lead him to embrace his hubris, of excessive pride, as opposed to admitting that there might be some condition in the external worlds that contradicts what he might believe about himself.  When Oedipus believes his own sense of certainty about his reality, fueled by his own hubris, there is an embrace of false constructions of reality.  It is this collision between his own subjective and the harsh truth of reality that causes the tragic ending.  When he blinds himself, it is the blinding of his own belief in appearances and the embrace of a reality that he now sees in his own mind, but not with his physical sense of sight.

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macain13 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The difference between the reality of Oedipus’s actions versus the appearance is central to the story. In it, Oedipus does many things that seem to be relatively straightforward, when in reality, they are twisted and all correlated to the prophecy of the Oracle.

For instance, when Oedipus kills the man on the road, it seems like a standard case of road rage and an argument gone bad. However, we later (much later) learn that this man was his father and that he had killed the King, as stated in the prophecy.

After that, he goes on to marry the Queen, as he has saved the city from the Sphinx. This appears straightforward but in reality is another aspect of the Prophecy—he has married his mother.

Finally, when he declares that the killer of the king must be found and executed, Tiresias warns him about this action, foreshadowing the revelation that it’s not as it seems. It is soon revealed that this action is essentially putting a target on his own head, as he killed the king.

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