Social Behavior in Saramago's Blindness

Jose Saramago’s Blindness depicts a world suddenly stricken by a blindness epidemic. As an inexplicable wave of blindness spreads, society fragments and people freely express an “animalistic” form of human nature in face of the increased pressure for survival. The characters’ responses to their blindness paint a fairly pessimistic picture of human nature and in fact many humane features seem to be accredited to the existence of a functional society. However, the novel is not void of counterexamples to such a notion that society is unavoidably virtuous and that individuals are only driven by selfish instinct. Instead, the varied examples of individual behavior and society’s function depict that the latter is merely an emergent property of the former; the individuals who are in effect society’s building blocks are ultimately responsible for whatever shape and role society takes.

Early in the novel, society’s fragility is demonstrated; an alteration, as in the loss of eyesight, disintegrates the former version of society. The disassembly of society in the novel sparks the spread of chaos and the loss of organized human interaction. The initial entropic effects of society’s disassembly aside, however, the true extent of its role in...

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