Blindness Summary and Analysis of Part XVII


The next day, the doctor's wife tells him that they are running out of food and that they need to make another trip to the underground food store. Making their way there, they hear another group of people giving speeches, this time about organization–economy, traffic, government, democracy and so forth.

When they get to the supermarket, they are surprised to see that there is no one fumbling around for food. The doctor's wife thinks that they may be too late, but decides to look anyway. Once inside, the dog of tears begins to whimper and doesn't want to accompany them into the cellar. Once in the cellar, the doctor's wife is shocked by the smell of rot and the flickering lights. When the light comes in so that she can see, she sees a huge mass of rotting bodies and flickering flames all over them. It would appear that some blind people had attempted to come down and had fallen, this had led to more and more and eventually all of the corpses had generated enough methane to make phosphorescent swamp gas. The doctor's wife is overwhelmed and the doctor has to drag her out of the cellar.

They make their way outside and find a church where the doctor's wife can rest. Once inside, though, she is shocked to find that all of the statues and all of the paintings have their eyes covered with white. Someone had, before they had gone blind, went and blinded all of the saints. When the people worshipping in the church hear this, they are very upset. The two make their way home, without food.

That night, only the little boy eats, while the rest settle down to hear the story. When the first blind man is about to sink off into sleep, he is disturbed by the fact that he sees black even though his eyes are closed and he is awake. He opens his eyes to see that he has regained his sight. Soon enough, they all follow suit and cries can be heard throughout the city of "I can see, I can see."


The group of blind people giving speeches about organization is a contrast to the group giving speeches the day before. This sense of organization appeals to the doctor, who has been trying, futilely, to organize people since the beginning of the novel.

The incident in the supermarket–the discover of the dead bodies in the storeroom–is certainly shocking, but we must ask ourselves why the doctor's wife reacts in such an extreme way. The answer is to be found in the reservations she felt when she was taking the food from the storeroom. She already felt as though she were doing something slightly inhumane and now she can see that her actions directly or indirectly led to the horrible deaths of all of these people. We can see the way in which the doctor's wife is uncomfortable with the position that has been thrust upon her–she must be cruel and self-serving to protect those that she loves, but she lacks the blamelessness that envelopes the blind.

The blindness of the icons in the church is an interesting episode that can be read in two ways. The first is to read the covering of the eyes as a demonstration of lost faith, even open aggression towards the idea of the divine. The parishioners could have blinded the icons as a way to do to God what God had done to them. It can also be read as the ultimate confession of the fact that God is only as good as those who worship him. If God, and religion, is only ever actualized through the community of believers, then it would make sense that there would be a blind God, a blind Jesus and so on. Once again, we are dealing with the horror of a world of blindness with no outside. Their blindness would be tolerable if they knew that there where a few people who were able to see, the blindness of the world would be tolerable if they knew that God, outside of their world, could see. The suggestion that this is not the case led the worshippers to panic as they do in the novel.

When the rest of the people of the city begin to regain their sight, the doctor's wife worries that she is going to lose her own. Why? The doctor's wife thinks that she was spared so that she could bear witness to what had happened. It is not so much that she was meant to help the people, but rather to see what they had done, what they had become and to remember. If this is the case, then she has no reason to keep her sight once the others have regained theirs. Luckily for her, this does not turn out to be the case.

The fact that, at the end of the narrative, the characters regain their sight is further proof of its status as an allegory. We should remember that allegories are often, to a certain extent, didactic. They are told to convey a message or a moral. This message or moral is often preserved at the cost of what we may term realism. Such is the case with Blindness, where the sudden and improbably return of the character's sight shows that their blindness was merely a means to show them the state of ignorance and lack of reason that they constantly live in regardless of whether or not they can see. The tears of the doctor's wife let the reader know that the role of the only one who can see, as allegory for the philosopher, is no happier that of the blind. To be able to see the world as it "really" is means to be privy to all of its horror and pain in a completely unmitigated fashion. While those who are ignorant or unreasonable are blissfully unaware of this lack of knowledge, and the blind in the novel became more and more accustomed to their blindness, the one who is outside of that, be it the doctor's wife or the philosopher, cannot turn a blind eye to the surrounding horrors.