The motif of blindness in Oedipus is symbolic to the play's theme of the pursuit of truth and the ability to recognize truth. Though this motif of seeing and not seeing is laced throughout the beginning of the play, it first becomes clear when the prophet Teiresias hobbles on stage. Teiresias is literally blind, but can ironically see clearly the horror that is Oedipus' past, present, and future. Oedipus' eyes work just fine, but unfortunately he's completely blind to the dreadful fate the gods have placed upon him, hence the continuous use of irony as symbolism. The doomed king's ignorance on this key matter is made even more ironic by the fact that he was made famous for his keen insight, by solving the riddle of the Sphinx.
These accusations likewise fuel Tiresias' temper. Before he leaves the scene, he warns, "So, you mock my blindness? Let me tell you this. You with your precious eyes, you're blind to the corruption of your life, to the house you live in, those you live with-who are your parents? Do you know? All unknowing you are the scourge of your own flesh and blood, the dead below the earth and the living here above, and the double lash of your mother and your father's curse will whip you from this land one day, their footfall treading you down in terror, darkness shrouding your eyes that now can see the light!"
Tiresias prophesizes Oedipus' tragic fate. Tiresias mocks Oedipus and patronizes him as he is, although king, blind to the terrors of what lies beneath the reality he knows. Oedipus is famed for his clear-sightedness and quick comprehension, but he discovers that he has been blind to the truth for many years, and then he blinds himself so as not to have to look on his own children/siblings. Tiresias is blind, yet he sees farther than others. Overall, the plays seem to say that human beings can demonstrate remarkable powers of intellectual penetration and insight, and that they have a great capacity for knowledge, but that even the smartest human being is liable to error, that the human capability for knowledge is ultimately quite limited and unreliable.
Using Jocasta's brooches, Oedipus gouges out his eyes, screaming, "You, you'll see no more the pain I suffered, all the pain I caused! Too long you looked on the ones you never should have seen, blind to the ones you longed to see, to know! Blind from this hour on! Blind in the darkness-blind!"
Oedipus was metaphorically blind throughout the progression of the drama. When Oedipus realizes all the prophecies are true, he is faced with a harsh reality. He gouges out his eyes in an attempt to escape the brutal truth of the repercussions of his actions. He curses himself and the significance of him gauging his eyes out demonstrate his realization of his blindness
"What good were eyes to me? Nothing I could see could bring me joy."
Since Oedipus now knows his dreaded fate, he decides to physically blinds himself. This furthers the motif of blindness in this drama. Oedipus was metaphorically blind to his own reality and his destiny, and now he wants to puncihs himself by becoming physically blind. He thinks his eyes were useless because they weren't able to see the truth of his situation.
"My poor children, what you desire is known to me and not unknown, for I see well that everyone is sick."
This quote presents irony in that fact that Oedipus is blinded to see that his own transgressions are actually the reason to his people's suffering. Oedipus does not realize he has actually fulfilled the prophecy rather than escape it; he is are unable to see what he has done and it's ramifications.