Oedipus Rex Motifs
by Sophocles


The idea of seeing, whether it be physical vision or seeing prophecies, is a strong motif in Oedipus Rex. Tiresias is the one that sees the most truth, despite being physically blind, and has been given the gift of seeing the future. Despite the prophecy he knows well, Oedipus refuses to believe that it has already come true, even when Tiresias tells him it is so. After he has realized that he did indeed murder his father and marry his mother, he blinds himself by gouging his eyes out with a pin. It is after he has blinded himself that he is able to accept his fate. He no longer challenges the prophecy, but knows that Tiresias has told him the truth. He becomes less aggressive as he sends himself out of the Thebes.


The first instance of sickness is in the city of Thebes. By referring to the city itself as being sick, it shows that there is little the people themselves can do to become prosperous. It takes an act of gods to right an illness, and the people have no capability to cure themselves. After Oedipus finds out what he has done to his father and mother he refers to himself as being ill, “Ill myself, from ill parents.” This illness is something he repeats throughout the final scene.


The mention of the crossroads is Oedipus’ first clue that he indeed may have been the one that killed Laius, and it reappears throughout the play as more than just the location of Laius’ murder. The physical imagery of a crossroads is ripe with symbolism for decision making and important choices. Except in this situation, Oedipus felt he had no choice at this particular crossroads. He felt forced to kill Laius, because they were the ones who hassled him and gave him trouble. This echoes Oedipus’ fate as being something he had no choice in, and would never have been able to combat it.

Share on Pinterest