Sight and Blindness: a Metaphor for Humanity's Place in the Universe

In Oedipus the King, sight and blindness were used as a metaphor for humanity's place in the universe. The gods and unchangeable fate remained hidden from humans; therefore, they were blind to the truth of existence. It is ironic that the only insight Oedipus had into the gods' will was through a blind man. Teiresias was a blind prophet who could "see" the truth about Oedipus' situation. The prophet was physically blind, and Oedipus was blind to his scandalous past. To explain this to Oedipus, Teiresias said, "You don't see how much alike we are" (749). Although he was blind to the outside world, Teiresias could foresee the despair the truth would cause Thebes. He warned Oedipus not to ask for the truth. He said, "Wisdom is a curse when wisdom does nothing for the man who has it" (748).
At the conclusion of the play, Oedipus gouges out his eyes to escape the sight of his sins. He felt he could no longer "look men in the eyes"
(780). Oedipus called on the gods to shield him from the fate Apollo's oracle had decreed. He said, "Holiness, pure radiant powers, o gods don't let me see that day?take me away from men, men with their eyes" (763). Again he wished to avoid seeing the real truth, the fate the gods had chosen for him. Because of his pride, Oedipus wanted to hide his sin from humanity. Oedipus mocked Teiresias' skill of prophecy. The king asked the prophet to give proof that his visions were ever true. Oedipus boasted that it was his own heroics that saved Thebes from the Sphinx. In doing this he lessened the importance of spiritual truths and exalted physical action. Jocasta also attacked the art of prophecy. She said, "no mortal can practice the art of prophecy; no man can see the future" (760). She denied the power of the Fates by saying, "the future has no shape. The shapes of prophecy lie. I see nothing in them, they are all illusions" (763). The queen said this because she believed the prophecy about her son proved false. Although she realized Oedipus was her son, she wanted to ignore the truth and continue their incestuous marriage. In this, she was defying the will of the gods for her own happiness.
Oedipus blamed Apollo for his horrific fate. He claimed the gods had foresaken him because of his sins. In his agony, he thought his fate was unavoidable. However, the audience is left to wonder if he was blameless. His uncontrollable temper caused him to kill Laius. No god or fate drove
him to that act. It was his own pride that decreed the punishment for Laius' murder. He showed no leniency or justice for the murderer. If he had, he might have been allowed to stay in Thebes with his family.
Although humans could not fully understand the universe, they were still expected to lead good, just lives. Being blind to the gods' will did not give humans the right to live anyway they desired. Humanity must always strive to choose the right paths for their lives. They must always search for the light of the truth. Like Teiresias, the Greeks should look for the internal truths, and not just accept what they see. Oedipus described this truth as "Light Light Light" (773). This is the light of reason which came from the gods and awareness.