For centuries, society has placed great value on the attirement of knowledge as a means of understanding the world. As a result, many made it their life’s goal to attain as much information as possible, assuming that this will bring them status and admiration and therefore, contentment. However the pursuit of knowledge doesn’t always coincide with the pursuit; a universal desire. In fact, the common saying that “Ignorance is bliss”, indicates that often times, it is those who opened a Pandora’s box.
“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”
– Mark Twain
Sophocles’s notorious play Oedipus Rex is an example of just how lethal knowledge can be. This story tells of KIng Oedipus, who comes to learn that the chaos throughout his kingdom is the result of a tragic predication; one that prophesied that he would murder his father and sleep with his mother. Although the first, the prophecy seemed absurd, he gradually comes to realize that it is true and has come to pass. The knowledge of having the blood of his father on his hands and that his dear wife, Jocasta, is actually his mother, making his children products of incest. Perhaps even worse is that his awareness that the curse and the people of Thebus’s suffering was in fact his doing. When Oedipus learns of his fullfillment of a tragic prophecy, the knowledge drives him crazy and ultimately ruins his life.
In Brave New World, Atdous Hurley fashions a utopian society within which everyone and everything has a place. Those who do not fit are excluded, resulting in the formation of an alternate society on the Savage Reservation, one that is deemed backward and barbaric. The protagonist, John, however, is a product of both worlds, and because of this, doesn’t quite fit in either. The child of the “civilized” mother who was stranded on the Reservation, John grows up alienated from his community, as a result of different upbringings. The only thing that keeps him going is the idea of another, distant world that his mother has instilled withing him, a beautiful world that he has always dreamed of; only to find himself more alienated than ever before. The values and beliefs of this new world completely go against his own, and the knowledge that he has no place in either society takes away his will to live.
As has been demonstrated by scores of literary works, knowledge can often be more of a burden than a benefit. Oedipus Rex and Brave New World, particularly provide moving illustration of this concept. Although these tales were written thousands of years apart, they nevertheless share the same central theme: that of the deadly poisonous nature of knowledge. Each of the protagonists shared a similar fate; the very fabric of their lives was torn apart and rendered unlivable all because they simply couldn’t bear to live in ignorance.