Figurative Language In Oedipus Rex
What are some examples of figurative language in the play Oedipus Rex? Will you please cite them and/or tell me where they are located in the book! Thank you so much!
Oedipus Rex abounds with striking and poignant imagery. Perhaps the most noteworthy example of imagery is presented to the reader towards the end of the play. Oedipus finds his mother and wife, Jocasta, dead as a result of hanging herself. In a fit of extreme anguish, Oedipus does the following:
He snatched the golden brooches from the Queen,
With which her robe was fastened, lifted them,
And struck. Deep to the very founts of sight
He smote, and vowed those eyes no more should see
The wrongs he suffered, and the wrong he did.
The messenger who relates this story proceeds to describe the bloody mess which ensued, "clammy drops / Welled in a shower unceasing." Oedipus violently blinds himself. The vivid imagery of this carnage magnifies the reader or audience member's understanding of Oedipus' sin and suffering. There is an element of irony here, that Oedipus chooses to gouge out his own eyes after being so metaphorically "blind" to his incestuous relationship with Jocasta.
Moreover, the "golden brooches" Oedipus uses to commit this self-harm are a meaningful symbol. Oedipus could have used any object, even his own sword to blind himself, yet he takes the time to remove the Queen's jewelry and use the pins from her brooches. Oedipus essentially re-enacts the nature of his downfall, the discovery of his true identity and relationship to Jocasta. In short, it is extremely intimate. The world now knows Oedipus' deep personal shame, and the socially repugnant physical intimacy he had with his mother as her husband. The brooches are a feminine, personal item of Jocasta's and harken to the complex interpersonal relationship which resulted in this entire tragedy.
Oedipus Rex contains several metaphors that the playwright, Sophocles, refers back to a number of times in the play.
One of the metaphors depicts the state (Thebes) as a ship. A ship, in order to function properly, needs to be solidly constructed and competently guided and maintained. Like a ship, a country will “sink” if it is not cared for properly. Thebes, when the play opens, is in the process of sinking. Oedipus is trying to find out what he can do to prevent the destruction of Thebes. To develop this idea, Sophocles creates a metaphor in which he compares the state of Thebes to a ship.
Early in the play, the chorus says
Our sorrows defy number,
All the ships timbers are rotten; (lines 195-196)
Thebes is the ship, the rotting timbers are the problems that Thebes is going through.
A bit earlier in the play, Creon used the same metaphor when he said to Oedipus
Lauis, the King, was lord of our land before you became pilot of this State. (line 122)
Here, “pilot” refers to the one who is charge of a ship, or what we might call the ship’s captain these days.
There are several similes and metaphors, types of figurative language, in Oedipus Rex. For example, in line 75, Oedipus says, "You have not roused me like a man from sleep" to the children gathered around him. In this example, Oedipus says that he is wide awake and compares himself to someone who has not just been awakened. In line 182, Oedipus says, "I am stretched on the rack of doubt." This is a kind of metaphor in which Oedipus compares himself to someone who is stretched on a rack, but the rack is not a physical rack but an emotional rack made of self-doubt. In line 200-203, the Chorus says, "You may see them one with another, like birds swift on the wing, quicker than fire unmastered, speeding away to the coast of the Western God." In this simile, the women of Thebes are compared to fast birds who fly away, faster than a raging fire, to the land of Death. The coast of the Western God stands for the realm of the God of Death. This simile means that the women of the city are perishing.