“A Man Who Had No Eyes” by MacKinlay Kantor is a short, short story ending with an “O. Henry” style resolution. Three literary elements bring to life the two characters: flashback, foreshadowing, and imagery.
The story takes place in the present on a beautiful, spring morning. The narration is third person point of view.
The characters in the story are Mr. Parsons, a successful business man, who stops to enjoy the spring sun. The other character is a blind beggar. Later in the story, the reader learns the name of the beggar: Markwardt.
The beggar preys upon Mr. Parsons to buy a lighter despite the fact that the businessman does not smoke. The beggar makes a point of telling the other man that this is the way that he makes his living… not as a beggar because he is selling something in return for the money given to him.
Through the course of the transaction, the reader learns that the blind man lost his eyesight in a chemical fire in the place where he worked. He further describes a terrible situation in which he is made to wait to go out by a man who went ahead of him. The blind man bitterly talks about how there was no one to help him.
The other man stops Markwardt and tells him that he has not told the truth. Mr. Parsons was the other man, and it was Markwardt that would not let him go first which caused his blindness.
What foreshadowing led to the end of the story?
Mr. Parsons notices the clack, clack of the blind man’s cane. Someone who was not blind himself might not have noticed this particular sound.
Mr. Parsons, he was very glad to be alive. A few years ago he had been little more than a skilled laborer; now he was successful, respected, admired... Insurance... And he had done it alone, unaided, struggling beneath handicaps…
Mr. Parsons carries a cane as well.
The reference to the handicaps takes on a new meaning when the reader discovers that Mr. Parson is also blind. He was able to become a success based on his attitude and energy. On the other hand, the beggar resorts to a life on the streets and living from day to day.
When Mr. Parsons corrects the blind man’s story, it is then that the reader realizes the moral. The one man hurt the other man when he was attempting to leave the disaster. He did not prosper but chose to live in the underbelly of society. Using the pity that one might feel for a handicapped person, the beggar never recovered or tried to do something with his life.
Mr. Parsons, with a better outlook on life, did not let the handicap stop him. He improved his station in life by working hard and not letting anything prevent him from becoming the man that he wanted to be.