Imagery of blindness and sight in Oedipus the King contributes to dramatic irony in three ways. The repetitive sight and blindness imagery is used by Sophocles to foreshadow the fate of Oedipus, create tension and expectation in the audience and increase our empathy for Oedipus. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we cannot help but feel sympathy for Santiago Nassar as his death is already revealed to the reader at the start of the novel. Dramatic irony is manifest very early and is shown through each individual in the community and especially through Santiago’s mother, who ultimately neglects to inform him about his death.
The use of sight and blindness imagery is the key technique towards foreshadowing Oedipus’s fate and future actions. Many of the references to sight, blindness and eyes appear early on in the play. The emphasis that is put on this subject and the context in which they are used foreshadow the importance of eyes and being able to see. In the very first episode the priest that speaks for the people and addresses Oedipus says “you see us before you now”. A hint is made that Oedipus can only see now but that he will lose his sight later.
The priest describes the misfortune and states that Oedipus must “see with his own eyes” what terrors are plaguing the city. Towards the end of the play when Oedipus truly sees what the problem is and he is no longer “blind to the corruption of his life” he is so horrified and agonized he blinds himself by ripping the brooches of his deceased wife and mother’s dress and “raking them down his eyes”. Previously in the play, he had announced that “I’ll never see myself disgraced” which contributes to the idea that if he is proven guilty of the horrible crimes prophesized he would commit, he would prevent himself from ever seeing again.In the novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, we observe the sensitivity of the town’s response to the brutal murder of Santiago Nassar.
A question we are forced to ask ourselves when reading the novel is how much the community is actually responsible for the murder. We can blame the community for not preventing this foretold crime or we can view the death as an individual crime. The absurdity and bizarre aspects of human nature are revealed while observing a town’s response to the brutal murder of a potentially innocent man, Santiago Nasar. The community witnessed the murder, but no one tried to stop the ruthless crime. After the murder the residents for years, can’t talk about anything else.
The residents can not go on living without an exact knowledge of the place and the mission assigned to them by fate. By examining the community’s behavior after the murder, it becomes clear that the residents become unable to free themselves from the guilt they feel.The imagery of sight and blindness builds tension and expectation in the audience. An ancient Greek audience would be familiar with the fate of poor Oedipus before the character himself would (resulting in dramatic irony). The tension and expectation of a crowd increases as Oedipus makes violent exclamations about the punishments and consequences ahead of the man who murdered Laius. When Oedipus resolutely exclaims that “the time has come to reveal this once and for all” the audience will be waiting eagerly for the point when Oedipus recognizes the crimes he has committed.
Expectation is elevated further more when the Chorus pronounces that “not till I see these charges proved will I side with his accusers” and that “time alone can bring the just man to light – the criminal you can spot in one short day”. The time frame of Oedipus Rex is during one single day. Oedipus is digging deeper into the story behind Laius’ murder and his own ancestry. The audience knows the hour will come when Oedipus discovers the truth.In the novel, the community make it visible when trying to distance themselves from guilt. The resident’s of the town do so by establishing a detailed account of the day of Santiago’s murder, which is based on memory and inaccurate versions of the truth.
By doing so, the residents hope to remove the guilt from their souls. However, after many years of having this guilt on their souls, causes another aspect of human nature to be revealed, total denial. Hortensia Baute is a resident of the town who claims that her “only participation was having seen the two bloody knives that weren’t bloody yet”. Following the murder, Hortensia enters a state of mind of refusal and inability to recognize that she had the power to stop the murder. Standing by and watching a crime take place, a crime of such brutality and cruelty, is just as bad as committing the crime first hand. After Hortensia is unable to stand the torment or guilt any longer, she “runs out naked into the street”.
Denial is the minds last attempt to relieve one’s self from guilt. However denial often causes ones mental capacity to break down.As an audience is submitted to the constant imagery of sight and blindness emotions of empathy for Oedipus and elements of pathos are stimulated. The audience are aware of Oedipus’ fate but Oedipus is not. The audience feel empathic and are able to associate with the blind prophet Tiresias’s clever comment about how terrible it is “to see the truth when the truth is only pain to him who sees”.
The audience know what Tiresias know. To watch Oedipus rage and condemn Tiresias stir up powerful emotions. This statement is also a pun (play on words). Oedipus does not ‘see’ the truth. He does not know he has murdered his father and married his mother. Tiresias is blind, yet he sees the truth.
The result of Oedipus seeing the truth is him blinding himself and “gouging out his eyes”. When Oedipus starts paying attention to the murder of Laius he says “I never saw the man myself”. Feelings of pity for Oedipus are evoked in a crowd as they know Oedipus has seen Laius and has gone to the extent of killing him. Moreover, simple statements such as “I see it all” and “we will see our triumph – or our fall” make an audience groan with empathy and pity, as well as the blind prophet Tiresias phrase “you cannot see how far you’ve gone in guilt”. The feelings of pity reach their highest point when Oedipus has blinded himself and says “how could I look my father in the eyes” after earlier in the play having said “too see one’s parents and look into their eyes is the greatest joy I know”.The imagery of sight and blindness evoke exceptionally strong emotions in the audience and displays how faulty human sight can be, which reveals the irony. Being able to see clearly in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex represents knowledge, reality and the truth. It is an excellent example of tragedy as Catharsis, as defined by Aristotle.
Secondly, it highlights the hamartia in Sophocles’ protagonist Oedipus. Imagery of sight and blindness exposes the tragic flaw in Oedipus, being his pride or hubris.In Chronicle of a death foretold, the town tries to “give order to the chain of many chance events that had made absurdity possible”.
The narrator returns to the town 27 years after the murder of Santiago and tries to recount the day of his death. The narrator tries to put the day in order, a chronological order. However, human memory is not always a reliable source for the events of this day, as over time, the past becomes obscured, details are forgotten, and accuracy is lost. This is shown by a conversation between Cristo Bedoya and the Mayor: “I just saw them with pig-killing knives…’It can’t be, because I took them away from them before sending them home to bed.
It must be that you saw them before that’…
‘I saw them two minutes ago and they both had pig-killing knives’…’O Shit. Then they must have come back with two new ones”. The two men have conflicting perspectives of the same event, yet both respond with such certainty.
As one man states: “they must have come back with new ones”, this demonstrates another aspect of human nature, which is to come up with excuses and rationalizations. Finally, the community rationalizes Santiago’s death a “fate”. If it was fate that caused the murder, than the community doing nothing to stop it does not make them guilty of the crime committed.