Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas and concepts.
References to sight and the lack of sight are frequent in the play. To modern thinkers and Ancient Greeks alike, the image of clear vision is used as a metaphor for knowledge and insight (for example: “I see the truth” or “I see the way things are.) However, the reference to eyesight in Oedipus Rex is ironic. In the beginning of the play, Oedipus is famed for clear-sightedness and quick comprehension, but he discovers that he has been blind to the truth for many years. Finally, he blinds himself so he doesn’t have to look on his own children/siblings.
In Greek, the word oedipus literally means “swollen foot.” He gets his name from the fact that he was left in the mountains with his ankles pinned together, which left Oedipus with a vivid scar for the rest of his life. The injury symbolizes the way in which fate has marked him and set him apart from the rest. It also symbolizes the way his movements have been confined and constrained since birth by Apollo’s prophecy.
Oedipus kills Laius at a crossroads. A crossroads symbolizes a crucial moment in life (in and out of this play.) This is the moment when Oedipus begins to fulfill the prophecy. Oedipus was not aware at the time that he was making a fateful decision. In the play, the crossroads symbolizes fate and the power of prophecy rather than freedom of choice.