Núñez, the protagonist of H. G. Wells’s story, is a man from Bogotá, Colombia who gets lost while hiking in the Ecuadorian Andes. The story presents him as a singular figure, a stranger who arrives in an isolated community and tries to make people think the way he thinks—in this case, literally to open their eyes. He comes across as an anti-hero; even as he is a rugged individual who resists social conformity, his vanity and self-importance also keep him from acknowledging the rights of others to live according to their chosen rules.
Working as a guide for a group of hikers, he takes a wrong turn during the night. Núñez literally stumbles into a settlement that he had dismissed as a myth. The community is inaccessible to outsiders; only the random tumble down a long, steep incline took him there. His natural curiosity is piqued when he realizes that he has reached is the legendary Country of the Blind. Everyone who lives inside its walls is sightless, to his way of thinking. Núñez is distressed by what he considers a disability with absolutely no advantages. He tries in vain to convince the people there that sight is superior. This is virtually impossible to do, however: because the people do not have any words for the concepts of vision or its lack. Núñez struggles in vain to understand how they cannot consider themselves to be blind or to understand the condition as a drawback. Touching his eyes, the local people find them abnormal, and also doubt his story and his sanity.
Núñez finds it difficult to conform to the community’s rules, and after breaking them by straying off the designated paths. The people ostracize him, but finally relent and, after punishing him by whipping, allow him to return in exchange for doing menial tasks. During his stay, the stranger becomes interested in a local woman, Medina-Sarote, the daughter of the family with whom he is living. When he states his wish to marry her, other community members oppose the match. Because he is generally viewed as mentally challenged, they worry about the couple’s future children.
Ultimately Medina gives him a choice: If he has his eyes surgically removed, she will marry him and he can stay. Refusing this choice, he leaves the community. The reader is left to wonder if he will ever make his way all the way back to his own people.