Short Story #74: The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells
Title: The Country of the Blind
Author: H. G. Wells
SummaryDeep in the Andes mountains in Ecuador, there exists a village of blind people. Generations ago, a virus ran through them making them blind and keeping them blind. However, the isolated village continues to live and prosper despite the loss of sight to all of them. Nunez was part of a hiking expedition on the Andes that when wrong and before he knew it, he was plummeting off a mountain wall to what he thought was his death. He awakes in a closed off valley and stumbles onto the village of blind people. He initially believes that he will come to reign supreme since he is only man with sight among "the country of the blind." But he soon learns that his sight is not believed by the villagers who consider him to be slightly crazy. As he talks of sight and tries to explain the benefits of it, the blind villagers find his claims ridiculous and laughable. He tries numerous times to prove that his sight is valuable and each time, it fails in the ways in which he hopes to. The blind villages have fully adapted to life without sight and largely forgotten that world of vision. Nunez becomes enraged enough that he eventually rebels and engages in violence against them. He flees the village but eventually, returns with nowhere else to go. He accepts his play among the people as a servant and considered an idiot among the villagers. Eventually, he regains some of their trust enough to court a woman in the village. However, in order for him to marry her, he has to sacrifice his eyes (the villages are without eyes) because the villagers believe the eyes are the source of his craziness. He initially agrees, but before he goes under the knife, he climbs up the mountain pass to look out upon the valley and see all the beautiful scenes around him. The final scene is him looking up at the sky at night, still on the mountainside.
ReflectionI've always been a fan of Wells. I've read many of more popular works (The Time Machine, Invisible Man, Star-Begotten, War of the Worlds) and a few other short stories. Yet I was still surprised how much I liked this story. The situational irony with Nunez incapable of using the extra sense he has over the blind folk is curious to watch play out and raises questions about what we perceive as advantages and disadvantages. That he fails to prove his "king" status and appears to contemplate a life among the blind as a servant rather than return home is another fascinating element of the story. Then, of course, there is the ambiguous ending. Does he go home or go back to the village? What would any of us have done if we encountered a situation that so profoundly turned our world upside down?
Short Story #74 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 3/14/2014
Source: The 13 Best Horror Stories of All Time edited by Leslie Pockell, Warner Books. The story can also be found on Project Gutenberg.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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