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Blindness is a universal symbol that authors of all types of literary works have used to communicate important messages to their audiences. Blindness is used in literature as a symbol of the limitation of the natural vision. In many instances where this archetype is used, the authors insinuate that the blind, who do not have the physical superficial vision can see the less obvious things better than those with natural sight. The paradox of the symbol is that the actions and words of the blind characters shape the outcomes of other characters' lives. Authors also make the blind characters provide insight into characters with good sight to demonstrate that disability is not inability. The blind characters play crucial roles in literary works because most of the time, they convey the real meaning of the work. In the work we have done in class, the archetype of blindness is used in "Cathedral", a short story written by Raymond Carve; Sophocles' drama, "Oedipus the King"; and Robert Frost's poem, "Acquainted with the Night"
In "Cathedral", the blind character is Robert, who is portrayed as a very compassionate and insightful person. Robert brings out one of the essences of blindness archetype as the ability to listen well and get issues. Unlike the characters, the blind character uses the ears to see things. Therefore, they capture every detail of speech and that makes them far better listeners than those who have eyes. For example in "Cathedral", Robert comes out as a better listener than the narrator and his wife, who though can see each other, are marred by unending arguments because of their judgmental listening styles.
That is the reason the narrator's wife turns to Robert when each time she feels like talking about her experiences. Robert was so patient that sometimes, the narrator's wife would just record tapes about her nasty past and sends them to him to listen and provide counsel. Although we do not get to know the kind of responses that the blind man gave her, the interest of the author is to show that the narrator's wife considered him to be more insightful than anybody else she knew, and that is why she confided in him.
In "Oedipus the King", the blind character is Tiresias, who is a prophet. Like Robert in "Cathedral", he cannot see the physical things, but he can see things that other people cannot see. As the author explains, the gods denied Tiresias the ability to perceive the external reality but enabled him to tell what would happen in the future. For example, when Oedipus mocks Tiresias, he predicts to him that he would also lose his ability to see. Later in the play, the prophecy comes true, and all other characters confirm that Oedipus gets blind according to the words of Tiresias. Notably, the moment Oedipus lost his eyesight, he also developed a unique ability to tell the future.
It is common to find that people who can see despise the archetypical blind characters to the extent of underestimating their abilities. However, with time, those who treat them with contempt regret having done so after seeing how good they are in what they can do. In "Cathedral", the narrator treated Robert with hatred and contempt and was uncomfortable with their friendship with his wife. He only learned that Robert played a prominent role in the life of his wife much later. He Similarly, Oedipus and other characters hardly believed Tiresias until his prophecy came to pass. Since the two books were written by authors from two different generations and cultures, it is evident that this is a universal phenomenon that cuts across all literary works, including the classical myths.
The poem "Acquainted with the Night" handles archetypical blindness differently from the short story and the classical drama. In this poem, the author uses inability to see people well to develop the theme of loneliness. Unlike in the first two works, the author does not show us the interaction between this character and others in their world, but we can infer that the narrator is isolated from their world. The poem is thus, about a person who is too depressed to interact normally with their community. The archetype of blindness is represented further by the narrator's inability to sense time by the clock. Despite this character's disability, they do not have any special abilities like Robert and Tiresias.In conclusion, the archetype of blindness is a common symbol in "Cathedral", "Oedipus the King", and "Acquainted with the Night". In the three literary works, the characters who are unable to see have no close interaction with their communities because of their conditions. Each author, however, approaches the symbolism differently. In "Cathedral", the blind man has one trusted friend who confides in him, while in "Oedipus the King" and "Acquainted with the Night", the blind characters has no trusted associates. Lastly, blindness is portrayed as both lack eyesight and social isolation.
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