Imagery is an underrated aspect of Oedipus the King. The sequences of vivid and thought-provoking imagery were both disturbing and fascinating. The perfect balance between engaging the reader and painting a visual representation of the story is my favourite feature of this play. My favourite exhibition of this is on page 186, “Cased in armour, Apollo son of the father/lunges on him, lightning-bolts afire!/And the grim unerring furies/closing for the kill(p. 186)”. My interpretation is that I believe this passage to be a metaphor for the tragedy that Oedipus endures. The tragedy first begins when he calls for the persons responsible for the murder of Laius to be ostracized in the kingdom, but unwillingly unleashes his own people’s fury on himself, almost uncanny as to how Apollo seeks to handout justice concerning religious law. This beautiful, haunting, and ironic imagery perfectly fits the tome and theme of the play, in which a seemingly human man, seals his own fate in an attempt to brutally rid his people of suffering. By threatening violence and exile in the name of royal and religious justice, he not only permanently loses the support of his people and gods, but also unleashes the unrelenting desire of his people, and his gods, for justice. This ironic, tragic, and unknowing twist is the best moment in the play. This play is full of small, cryptic-yet-imaginative summaries and metaphors of the play. This subtle foreshadowing kept me engaged as a reader, and prompted me to take a genuine interest in the story.
Another aspect of the play I loved is the variation of diction and variation of the formality of language. One example is a subtle passage of alliteration on page 231, “She was afraid–frightening prophecies”(pg. 231). The reversal when Oedipus unearths the truth of his birth is an intense scene, and the emotional climax of the play. This Shepard’s seemingly simplistic beg for mercy is the quotation that propels us into the most intense and emotion-packed part of the play. This repeating “f” sound in this quotation evokes fear and helplessness, the same emotions overwhelming the Shepard. This fear, defeat, and helplessness mirror what begins to weigh on Oedipus the moment he hears the Shepard’s news. The reason I love this part so much is that the torture victim, the tragic hero, and myself all were experiencing the same emotional distress in unison. This seems almost like a fourth-wall break to me, in the sense that at this one point I was fully immersed in this scene, and all of its grimy details.
The theme of being blind to truth, even though it is in front of your eyes is one myself, and many others, can relate to on a personal level. A few years ago, I had mysteriously misplaced my wallet after leaving it on my bed. I turned my family home upside down looking for it, but to no avail. I then, and this is something I still have guilt about, began accusing one of my siblings of stealing it. This turned to a screaming match, but after I stormed off to my bedroom, have a guess as to what I saw on the ground, poking out from behind my bedside table. I felt horrible, a combination of guilt and shame for berating a loved one for something they didn’t do. The arc from confusion, anger and frustration, and finally, guilt and shame. I had failed to see what was right in front of me, literally. This is the strongest personal connection I have to Oedipus. The confused accusation, the unrelenting effort to unearth the truth, and finally, the weight of guilt on my shoulders. The shame Oedipus feels is so great, that he must gouge out his eyes and exile himself. I didn’t feel like this was necessary, but the feeling of embarrassment, and wanting to disappear to escape from these awful feelings, was something that was all-too-real for me.