Blindness Summary and Analysis of Part IX


With the arrival of the new inmates, the compound descends into complete filth. Excrement is everywhere, since the blind are unable or too impatient to use the restroom. The doctor's wife, unable to stand it anymore, decides to tell the rest of the internees that she can see so that she can move about without fear of being found out. She decides against it, though, when she starts to think about the enormity of the task before her. She could never clean the entire compound herself.

That morning, when a representative from their ward goes to pick up the food, they are met with a group of men from another ward guarding the food with cudgels. When they go to complain, one of the band pulls out a gun and shoots it in the air, threatening to shoot in the direction of anyone complaining. He explains that from now on the internees would buy their food from his ward with their valuables. Starting immediately, everyone must go back to their wards and collect all watches, jewelry, etc., and bring it to his ward where they would divvy up the food accordingly. Everyone is angry but sees that they have no choice.

Back in the first ward, they collect their valuables, but the doctor's wife keeps a pair of scissors and the man in the black eye patch keeps the radio. The doctor is sent to take the valuables to the ward of the man with the gun. Once there he realizes that they have a man in their ward who has been blind for his whole life. He is keeping the accounts in braille. Getting into an argument with the man with the gun, the doctor misses an opportunity to take the gun.


Up until this point the doctor's wife feels that she has the responsibility to help those that cannot help themselves. She realizes, though, that this is simply not possible. Even if she did tell the people that she could see, she would more likely than not merely end up their slave as opposed to being able to help them. In this regard she resembles the platonic philosopher. In the allegory of the cave, the philosopher is able to get out of the cave where the rest of the humanity lives. He sees the truth of the world, but must dole these truths out slowly, so as not to be considered insane or dangerous. In the doctor's wife's situation, she is outnumbered by the blind and realizes finally that her extra knowledge may not necessarily save her or guarantee her ability to help.

The introduction of the man with the gun and his regime of food distribution marks a shift in the organization of the quarantine. Until this point, the quarantine had been organized in a more or less democratic way where every problem was solved through discussion and dealt with on a case by case basis. This proves to be inefficient and fraught with problems such as food theft. The man with the gun institutes what is essentially a autocratic, centralized government with him at the center.

The fact that the doctor's wife keeps the scissors brings two interesting things to light. The first is that she foresees the fact that she may have to kill the man with the gun. The second is that she does not seem to consciously know this. The novel stresses time and time again the fact that the doctor's wife is baffled as to why she kept the scissors, and later, why she goes on late-night reconnaissance missions to the other wards. This kind of ambiguity offers two solutions. The first is that she subconsciously knows what must be done and cannot admit to herself consciously that this is the correct course of action. The second is that the fact that she keeps the scissors is actually chance, but this seems improbable.

Interestingly enough, the fact that the doctor does not seize the opportunity to take the gun is a signal of shift of power away from the modern scheme of power distribution, where male scientists, capitalists and technocrats are the normal power-holders, to the power distribution of the blind world, where courage, self-sufficiency and kinship relations (even adopted ones such as the first ward) become more important.

The cause of this political shift, from relative democracy to autocracy enforced by violence, is caused, clearly, by the blindness of the inmates. When we keep in mind the allegorical significance of blindness, we can see that the situation in the quarantine is an inaction of the general Enlightenment belief that autocracy and tyranny are a product of ignorance and unreason. Just as the unreason of the unenlightened gives rise to tyrants, so too does the blindness of the inmates.