The Struggles From A Cynical View Of Truth In Oedipus Rex

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W.E.B Dubois said, “Education among all kinds of men always has had, and always will have, an element of danger and revolution, of dissatisfaction and discontent. Nevertheless, men strive to know.” From this, we see the search for truth calls danger and bewilderment. The status quo dictates we accept the knowledge we are given, and skepticism is essential yet often frowned upon. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex portrays the struggles from a cynical view of truth.

The pursuit of truth, if conducted with excessive pride, will blind oneself from the truth. The search for truth and its perspectives are explored in the motif of literal and metaphorical sight. Tiresias, a physically blind man, predicts Oedipus’s demise, as he is a seer gifted with the sight of the truth. Tiresias is initially insulted by Oedipus for not knowing the truth, and Oedipus continues to ridicule him. When asked about whether his confidence and dealing with the consequences of speaking, Tiresias asserts his position only to be rebutted: “‘Unscathed indeed, if the truth is strength.’ ‘It is. But not for you, you purblind man: in ears and mind and vision’” (Sophocles 21-22). As Tiresias is insulted for his ignorance, Oedipus chooses to ignore the truth. The irony in Oedipus’s metaphorical blindness foreshadows his fate as his hubris renders self-reflection impossible in any capacity. The lack of open-mindedness is what dooms Oedipus’s skepticism, and accompanied with his pride, Oedipus becomes blind to the truth. Recognizing this Tiresias criticizes Oedipus for his pride, proclaiming, “I'm blind, you say; you mock at that! I say you see and still are blind” (Sophocles 23). This seemingly paradoxical statement depicts the blindness to the truth he seeks. While being physically able to see, Oedipus’s extreme desire of the truth led him to abandon any factual basis. When removed of all semblance of truth, cynicism ultimately masks the deeper truth it was trying to uncover and thus perpetuates Oedipus's ignorance. Oedipus’s downfall - which Tiresias correctly points out - arose from his hubris and cynicism which eliminated any chance of finding the truth.

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The danger of being cynical towards the truth is heavily portrayed through the pain that approaching the truth with a prideful attitude can bring. Oedipus was clearly warned before his fall of the dangers of a prideful venture into acquiring the truth. When Oedipus first starts his journey to uncover his heritage, he calls Tiresias, who can see the truth. He immediately wails, “Oh, what anguish to be wise where wisdom is a loss!” (18). The sadness expressed at having the truth indicates that knowing the truth would be a burden to those who so rashly approach it. Towards the end of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus realizes his faults and gouges his eyes out.

After doing so, Oedipus says, “You shall not see me nor my crime, not see my present shame. Go dark for all time blind to what you never should have seen and blind to the love this heart has cried to see” (70). Oedipus’s paradoxical reflection functions as his new thought process. By gouging out his eyes, he paid the price for finding the truth he so actively desires. The methods in which he decided to acquire that truth demanded a sacrifice that was collected once the truth was revealed. Thus, gouging out his eyes was a result of trying so hard to see within oneself whilst chasing the truth. Therefore, Sophocles uses violent cynicism as a means to portray the truth and the pursuit of it is a form of destructive behavior that affects many.

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The Struggles From A Cynical View Of Truth In Oedipus Rex. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from
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