Benjamin Yang How To Read Literature Like a Professor Chapter 22: He’s blind for a reason, you know. Period 4 9/21/11.
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Thomas Foster introduces a character from a book in the first paragraph with a very great example of blindness in the truth. The character’s name is Oedipus Rex and “unbeknownst to him, he has committed the two most hideous crimes in the human catalog of evil” (Fosters 201). Throughout the story he will do these two sins and it will create a special feeling; you know what’s going to happen and the result of it which is Oedipus blinding himself literally when he finds out. Foster tells us that this feeling will probably make you wince at the horribleness of it.
To add to the effect of knowing what’s going to happen, that figurative and literal blindness creates, the author of Oedipus Rex introduces a character who cannot see through his eyes. But this blind person, Tiresias, is special because he knows the what is going to happen to Oedipus and the knowledge of his crimes well before many of the other characters did. He tries to hold it back, but when he does blurt it out, “it is in a moment of such anger that no one believes him” thus creating more effect of knowing that Oedipus is going to do something bad to himself when he finds out (Foster 202).
figure out that Tiresias is blind, but sees the truth
and the Oedipus is blind to the truth and eventually blinds himself. What people miss in stories like this, is that it always references to seeing such as “who saw what, who failed to see, who is really blind- and images of light and darkness, which have everything to do with seeing or not seeing” (Foster 203). Oedipus Rex does this many times to teach you to read and notice blindness to the point where you notice more related images and phrases emerge in the text.
Blindness does not necessarily have to be only to the truth. As Foster reveals in another book, Araby, a boy is “blinded by love, then by vanity” (Foster 203). He is blinded by his emotions and when he realizes how ridiculous he looked, he nearly blinded himself with angry tears. This shows that a character can be obsessed with this one person and would change his/her whole character, even to a wrong personality, just to impress the other person or what not. Remind you of someone?
Finally Foster tells us how authors introduce blindness in a book. In fact, most of the books has some sort of blindness theme in them, but authors will use it specifically to “color” a story. To introduce it, they use a rule which Foster dubbed the Indiana Jones Principle. It reads “if you want your audience to know something important about your character (or the work at large), introduce it early, before you need it” (Foster 205). This is just a simple rule telling you that you shouldn’t wait halfway through a story to mention that the character is scared of snakes. You need to introduce right at the beginning so it makes sense when he does something like run away from snakes.
A truly great story, using the theme of blindness correctly, such as Oedipus Rex and Araby, can make much demands on the readers. But “it teaches ushow to read it” a way of saying (Foster 204). Usually when you read a book that uses blindness correctly, you feel that there’s something more going on in the story. You pick it up at first and end up questioning it. Once you ask the right question, the answer will present itself to you. When you figure it out, you also find another pattern. Usually characters will redeem themselves at then end.
The theme of blindness has almost everything to do with the book, Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Pip stands outside Miss Havisham one day and envisions “a rich attractive mystery, of which [he] was the hero. Estella was the inspiration of it, and the heart of it, of course” (Dickens 223). Because of Pip’s obsessing and blind love for Estella, he starts treating the people who care for him badly and becomes a gentleman all for the wrong reasons and just to maybe impress her. This blind love drives Pip throughout the story to guilt, shame, and eventually depression because of what he’s doing. He ends up redeeming himself, but really was never the same kind self he used to be.
In everyday life, a lot of people are blind to the reality of the world. Most people don’t want to face the truth because they are afraid of it. Everyone loves a world they can call paradise where it is just compassion, caring, and comfort, where there’s no violence or hate, but it’s not the case. It’s really a type of blindness caused by people themselves because they are too afraid to take their responsibilities, too afraid to act or care, and too afraid of what other people say. This is a voluntary thing where we are the cause of it and not anything else.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2003. Print.
Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. New York: Harper-Collins Publisher, Inc., 2003. Print.