In The Oedipus Trilogy, what are some examples of the theme of blindness in the plays and why did the author choose blindness as a theme?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would echo the previous post's sentiments.  The motif of blindness is present throughout the play to emphasize the notion of "sight."  Tiresias is blind, but is able to "see" the future and what lies ahead in quite a clear manner.  Oedipus, when he has physical sight, lacks a vision of the future and is devoid of the sight of wisdom.  His assertion of free will against the notion of fate, his perception that he can solve the riddles of what ails his people, and the assertion of self over other elements help to enhance the idea that Oedipus lacks the sight of wisdom.  It is only when Oedipus blinds himself, losing physical sight, that he gains a sense of vision that allows him to better understand himself and the condition in which he lives.  It is in this element that a major theme emerges:  Knowledge is suffering and wisdom accompanies this pain.  It is only through the agony he endures that Oedipus gains wisdom and a sense of "sight" even after losing his physical ability to "see."

epollock | Student


Subject is one of the most commonly misinterpreted literary terms. Subject refers to concrete content that exists in a work, such as death, blindness, and marriage, while theme, on the other hand, is a central idea or message of a work that is a universal truth expressed as a sentence. For example, people never see the truth until they throw off their blindness of bias and prejudice.

In The Oedipus Trilogy by Sophocles, blindness, and its derivative forms of words that deal with vision and sight, has been referred to by many critics as a metaphor for truth, honesty, knowledge, morality, and many others. The extensive list of references to Oedipus’s blindness, start with the ones connected with Oedipus’s “eyes” and the verb “to see” in the Prologue and in Oedipus’s dialogue with Teirisias in Scene 1. The reference then continues to lines 17, 25, 109 in the Prologue, and lines 84–104, 120, 129, 149, 153, 157, 187, 195–97, 200, 204, 215, 236–37, all simply in Scene 1.

Compare Teirisias, who is physically blind but can see the truth and foretell the future, with Oedipus, who is now deprived of his eyes but can see clearly only after he blinds himself. Such instances of ironic reversal suggest that self-knowledge and ignorance are intertwined in such a dramatic way that the discovery of the truth leads to self-destruction.

Oedipus’s self-inflicted punishment by blinding himself at the very moment he sees the truth about the fulfillment of Apollo’s prophesies may also represent the most ironic consequences of his moral blindness. One can note the extent of Oedipus’s tragic fate by linking his moral blindness with his inadvertent transgression of the moral codes of parricide and incest.