“The Eyes Are Not Here” [also known as “The Girl on the Train” and “The Eyes Have It”] is a short story by Ruskin Bond, an Indian writer. The story exudes irony. The story uses first person point of view. Not far into the story, the reader discovers that the narrator is blind but apparently has not always been. Riding on a train and sitting in a compartment provides the setting of the story.
This story is an excellent example of situational irony which employs a plot device in which events turn out contrary to expectation yet are contrarily appropriate. Further use of irony involves verbal irony when a character says one thing but means another.
The narrator listens as a couple sends their daughter off on the train to visit an aunt. Initiating the conversation, the narrator becomes intrigued by the girl’s voice. She is quite surprised to find someone else in the compartment.
Hoping to keep her from realizing that he is blind, he describes the scenery from his memories. He asks the girl a question, and she tells him to look out the window for himself.
To continue the ruse, the narrator tells the girl that she has an interesting face. She remarks that people normally tell her that she has a pretty face. Her trip is short, so soon she gathers her things and bids good-bye to the blind man. One thing that he remembered after she left was her perfume.
You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will, but the scent of the roses will linger there still…
A man coming into the berth runs into the girl. The blind man decides to play a game with this new train companion. Pretending to be observing the scenery, the blind man stays silent. Finally, the other man comments that the narrator must be disappointed that the new fellow traveler is not as nice looking as the girl. Remarking that she was interesting, the narrator ask about the girl’s hair.
Finally, the cat is out of the bag:
‘I don’t remember,’ he said, sounding puzzled. ‘It was her eyes I noticed, not her hair. She had beautiful eyes but they were of no use to her. She was completely blind. Didn’t you notice?’
Much like the endings of O. Henry, the reader receives an extra jolt at the end of the story when he learns as does the narrator that the girl was blind. The blind man was not only able to fool the young girl but himself as well. Both blind-- neither realizes that the other one is as well. Ironically, the narrator makes a statement that had he not been trying to fool the girl, it might have clued him into her blindness:
Well, it often happens that people with good eyesight fail to see what is right in front of them.
The new travel mate does not grasp that the man is blind either until he admits that he did not know how long the girl’s hair was.
Mason Cooley stated: “Irony regards every simple truth as a challenge.” The truth here is that everyone was duped. Ironically, Bond employs two blind people as his main characters, yet neither knows that the other is blind. After listening to the parent’s conversation with the daughter, the narrator could not distinguish any unusual advice or information that led him to believe the girl had any handicap herself. The narrator fooled himself. Apparently, he also misleads the girl because she did not realize that her fellow traveler was blind either.