Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Escaping the Country of the Blind

I first encountered the short story The Country of the Blind in some of the books I read before. Also, I have always heard of the statement: “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” A sultry and sleepless night compelled me to pull out my book containing several short stories, one of which is this classic work of H.G. Wells. The “The Country of the Blind” could stand well alongside Mr. Well’s other works such as “The Time Machine”, among others. But this particular short story crosses almost to the realms of speculative fiction.

The story is about a man named Nunez sent into this obscure valley by accident (or perhaps by divine providence) and encountered a community composed primarily of blind people. There was a mutual repulsion between Nunez and the blind people there but both responded to that: Nunez attempted to rule over the people while the people sought to deliver Nunez from his insanity (caused primarily by his ability to see).

Forced to live among them to obtain food, Nunez worked like the blind people. But his stay was complicated by love (by love by sight) to a blind lady. To win her, he had to be “neutralized”, to be “cured” from his disease of sight. In the end, as he marveled at the beautiful scenery he was witnessing, he decided to escape back to his world, to his reality.

There is something dark in the story, particularly in that possibility of creating a world within our world. The life of those blind people is their religion, their faith. They have made their lives (which to an outsider are but weird ones) their reality.

I think the story expounded on that sleeping capability within each person to re-imagine a thing that humans treat as commonplace and fashion it according to their will. But how does one sustain this re-imagination is a standing question.

In the end, I think the story subscribes to that thought (perhaps a dream?) that has permeated human thinking and that is the creation of a utopian world. The country of the blind is a utopian country for it contains all the possible needs of the people there in exchange for one thing – their power of sight (and I use the term power here intentionally). Would you dare live in such a country?

But after all, these are just musings by a simple blogger like me. This is not an exhaustive nor a comprehensive study or analysis of the story.

Photo credit: mobiletopsoft.com

[The book I read: “The Country of the Blind” by H.G. Wells, in Turning Point: Fourteen Great Tales of Daring and Decision, Edited by George Bennett, pp. 192-218, Published by Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1965.]

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