There are many levels of pain, some of which are discomfort, grief, and agony. In his poem “Oedipus”, Thomas Blackburn uses diction, imagery, and organization to create a tone of suffering that truly exemplifies pain at its greatest, as well as a tone of feebleness and impotence.
From the beginning of the poem, Blackburn’s diction suggests Oedipus’s immorality and wretchedness. For example, Oedipus’s shadow is “monstrous”, representing his horrific past and future as a monster. However, Oedipus is soon transformed into a powerless and blind being. The poem describes Oedipus as he “gropes” and “stumbles”, signifying his weakness and the effects of his self-inflicted blindness and handicap. The diction is very significant, as it provides insight on the actual story.
Near the conclusion of the play, Oedipus is weak and blind not only to the physical world, but to the truth as well, resulting in his mother hanging herself, as seen in the poem in, “and let this woman on the strangling cord…”. In the second to last line of the poem, Blackburn symbolizes Oedipus’s degeneration into death by discussing an ape’s “carcass”. The dead body of the animal shows Oedipus’s final stage in life, from his powerful position in the “palace” to the carrion of the “desert”, and supports the tone of suffering and impotence.
The many stages of Oedipus’s nature, from his wickedness to his gloom, are effectively portrayed through Blackburn’s use of imagery. Blackburn quickly introduces the depravity of Oedipus, who has “the odour of her body on his palms.” This image refers to Oedipus, who sleeps with his mother and wife, Jocasta. Yet, without knowing the story, the image created is sinful itself in nature by the mood created by the “odor of her body”, which appears both sexual and sensual. In the next stanza, Blackburn depicts Oedipus as he “gropes for the sage’s lips.” This symbolizes Oedipus’s realization of the truth, which Teresias, the “sage” has told Oedipus. Upon piecing all the clues and knowledge together, Oedipus knows that he has been ignorant and avoiding his inevitable fate.
With Oedipus acknowledging the truth, Blackburn leads to the dominant image of Oedipus as he suffers the consequences of his unwise actions. After Oedipus is banishes from the land, he is seen as a “newly born” with his daughters “leading him with childish hands.” The reader can instantly envision Oedipus as a child crawling through the desert, with his daughters ironically portrayed as his guardians. Oedipus loses the sense of sight and turns into a powerless creature with no spirit, represented by a child that is associated with a figure that is new to the world and knows nothing, including the truth, in Oedipus’s case. Thus, the usage of imagery develops Blackburn’s tone of suffering as Oedipus progresses toward what his fate has decreed.
Organization throughout the poem helps to portray and lay emphasis upon certain areas where Blackburn’s message about the fall of Oedipus and fate is evident. Analysis of the overall poem shows a decrease in Oedipus’s character. He is first portrayed as a monster in the palace walls, but as the poem progresses, Oedipus’s fall into destruction progresses as well. He begins to desperately seek the truth and when it is found, Oedipus becomes a helpless and weak creature. Similarly, the beginning to the poem depicts Oedipus as he indulges himself in his desires. However the ending of the poem shows “prophetic birds” flying overhead, symbolizing fate and how Oedipus eventually falls into submission and lowers himself as a person.
The chronology also adds to the tone by allowing readers to slowly develop an understanding of Oedipus’s suffering and pain. The placement of Oedipus’s demise at the end also adds emphasis to the message, since it is the last stanza that the reader reads and will remain in the reader’s mind the longest. It is clearly evident that the special organization of the poem helps to support the tone and message conveyed to the readers throughout the writing.
From the introduction to the end, Blackburn constantly provides support for the tones of suffering and weakness. Through diction such as “helpless”, imagery of Oedipus’s demise in the desert, and organization that created emphasis on certain clues, the tone and message is easily identified. Oedipus was truly a tragic story involving the fall of a king to a blind and powerless child, with the sad, horrific, and painful understanding of truth and fate integrated to create a dramatic play.