Symbols In Oedipus Rex

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Oedipus Symbolism Many stories from ancient times as well as present times use symbolism to prove a point or to help with the understanding of the story. Symbolisms are used in stories and plays of all kinds to help get a point across or to help clarify the meaning of the story, and the play, Oedipus the King, is no different.

There are many things throughout the play that are symbolic and very important to the understanding of the play. Two of the major symbolic things in the play are blindness and binding. Both of these things have a deeper meaning than simply the literal meaning of the words used to describe them.

Blindness is used as a symbol to understanding, and is seen as a physical blindness and well as a spiritual blindness with both having equal importance in showing that just because a person can see something does not mean that they understand what they are seeing or what they are supposed to see.

The binding is used to help show that the prophecies of the gods will be fulfilled regardless of what man does to try and stop them. The physical binding is used to symbolize that regardless of what types of interventions are implemented, some things are just destined to be.

Why Does Oedipus Blind Himself

These symbolic meanings are what make this play such an intriguing and memorable one.

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The first of the two symbolic things is blindness, which is used as a symbol to understanding. There are many references throughout the play about sight, seeing, blindness, and vision. Even though all of these words can essentially refer to the physical sight created by the human eyes, that is not what all of these words refer to in the play. Teiresias was a man who was physically blind and unable to see the things around him through his eyes, however when it comes to spiritual sight he could see everything clearly.

Teiresias understood everything that had happened and he warned Oedipus that he did not want to know who killed his father, but Oedipus kept prying. Oedipus was the exact opposite of Teiresias when it came to blindness because Oedipus was able to physically see but was blinded spiritually as he was unable to see the truth of his life. Once everything became clear to Oedipus, he blinded himself physically by gouging out his own eyes because he was ashamed of the things that he had done. He did not like the truths that had been unveiled and he made himself physically blind after he gained his spiritual sight. Wilkie and Hurt) The second of the two symbolic things is binding. As an infant, Oedipus’ feet were literally pierced and bound together by his parents, and he was sent away to be killed. His parents did this because it had been prophesied that he would someday kill his father and sleep with his mother. However, he was not killed, but he was taken in by another family who raised him. The physical binding of his feet left a permanent scar on him and it caused him to walk with a limp when he grew up, and it also played a large role in how he came to get his name. The binding has more than just a physical meaning though.

It can also be looked at as if he was bound to the fact that he would kill his father and fulfill the things that had been prophesied by the gods. Even though his parents had tried to stop destiny by having their child sent away to be killed, in a way it seems as if they actually enabled the prophecy to be fulfilled. If Oedipus had known that it was his father that he met at the crossroads, then he probably would not have killed him. Likewise, if he had known that his mother was the prize for solving the riddle, then he probably would not have accepted the challenge or the prize.

All of the people, including Oedipus, were bound to the predictions of the gods and there was nothing that any of them could do to change it. The scars on Oedipus’ feet were symbolic of being bound to the prophecy and the scars were what allowed the truth of who he really was to be proven to be true. (wikipedia. org) The symbolism throughout the play is what makes the play so memorable. Sophocles did not need to have a blind man be the one who revealed to Oedipus the truth of who murdered his father, but the fact that the man was blind simply makes the story that much better.

He was blind only in the physical manner, while Oedipus was blinded spiritually. It offers the thought that just because one can see with their eyes does not mean that they are actually looking at the information right in front of them. A person may have perfect vision and be completely blinded to the truths of their being or their surroundings. The symbolism of the binding is also an important one because it shows that some things are destined to happen regardless of what interventions are utilized. The same story could have been told without the different symbolisms but it would most definitely not e the same. It may have had the same story line and the same outcome as far as who the characters were and what they did, but the meaning behind the story would have been lost. Stories with symbolism generally pull people in and tend to engrave on their memory the meaning behind it. Without symbolism this would simply be a story with far less meaning. Works Cited Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt. Literature of the Western World Volume I: The Ancient World Through the Renaissance. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001, 1997, 1992. Print “Oedipus the King. ” Wikipedia. org. n. p. n. d. Web. 30 Sept. 2011

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