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October 06, 2006

Jenny's Quote Commentary on Oedipus

“I am afraid, afraid
Apollo’s prediction will come true, all of it,
as god’s sunlight grows brighter on a man’s face at dawn
when he’s in bed, still sleeping,
and reaches into his eyes and wakes him.” (p.68, lines 1273-1277)

Oedipus makes this statement in the presence of the messenger after he has discovered the death of Polybos and is reevaluating the truth of the prophecy.

This quote depicts Oedipus’ fear of discovering the inevitable truth of his past and future. He describes the appearance of light onto one’s eyes to metaphorically represent the acquisition of knowledge. Throughout the play, vocabulary describing light and brightness are used interchangeably with understanding, while the repetition of the word blind signifies the lack thereof. Oedipus relates his current state of informational blindness to that of a man sleeping with his eyes closed, thus shut off to reality. The sunlight comes to him slowly with increasing brightness, like the attainment of awareness that leads to Oedipus’ revelation. This quote also indicates Oedipus’ gradual loss of confidence and suspicion over his fate. The syntax of the passage causes Apollo’s prediction to be interpreted as a fact in addition to something that Oedipus fears by proclaiming its validity on a single line (1274). The fact that Oedipus will unravel the truth is as unavoidable as the occurrence of ‘god’s sunlight’ each morning. Oedipus can fear the truth, but he cannot evade its discovery.

Posted by jennlong at October 6, 2006 04:17 PM

Comments

Jenny -

Your analysis of the importance of lightness, darkness and blindness is appropriate and illuminating in the context of this quote, because you set up an opposition between truth as light and truth as an impetus for blindness. Because Oedipus's fate was so awful, the truth, which normally as seen as a positive force, became a source of contention, shame and guilt. Also, the notion that Oedipus cannot avoid the truth is exemplified wonderfully in the quote you chose - he cannot avoid sunlight (which is essentially nourishing) just as he cannot avoid the ultimately destructive truth.

-Emma

Posted by: emmorris at October 7, 2006 01:31 PM

Good points all -- notice also how the god/man opposition ("god's sunlight" on "man's face") sets up another contrast, mirroring the oppositions you already mentioned "light/darkness", "sight/blindness"...

Posted by: bhattach at October 9, 2006 01:32 AM

Jenny-
I like how your commentary goes into the syntax and vocabulary that is in your passage and also what is repeated throughout the play. It’s interesting how Oedipus calls the prediction of Apollo as “god’s sunlight” that “grows brighter on a man’s face at dawn.” This seems to be a contradiction because the truth of Oedipus’ fate from the god’s is actually more dark and horrible. Another important part of this passage is, as you note, Oedipus is becoming more suspicious of his life up to this point from the repetition of afraid at the beginning of your passage.

~Lindsey

Posted by: linzsmit at October 9, 2006 11:40 AM

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