A Man Who Had No Eyes Summary
by MacKinlay Kantor

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Extended Summary

As Mr. Parsons exits his hotel, a beggar approaches him. The beggar, a blind man, carries a black bag over his shoulder. In the bag are wares that he hopes to sell to passersby. Mr. Parsons notices the “clack-clack” of the beggar’s shoes and he pauses, feeling pity for the man’s unfortunate circumstance. In fact, he “felt a sudden and foolish sort of pity for all blind creatures.” He reflects on his own life and counts his blessing, showing an appreciation for the spring air and for his own life and relative health.

Mr. Parsons recollects a few years before, when he was not very prosperous. He now works in insurance, but only a few years ago, he labored alongside other skilled workers. He feels grateful that he has attained a degree of success, respect and admiration. As he begins to walk down the street, the blind man stops him.

Mr. Parsons offers the man a donation, but the man insists that he is not a beggar. Instead, he says, he is a merchant who sells a quality product. He then quickly produces a cigarette lighter and offers it to Mr. Parsons. He boasts that this is the “best cigarette lighter made” and that he is only asking one dollar for the purchase. Mr. Parsons informs him that he does not smoke and has no need for a cigarette lighter. The blind man suggests that he buy the lighter as a present for someone else, noting that it would make a fine gift for any smoker. In response to the suggestion, Mr. Parsons reluctantly takes the lighter and gives the blind man two fifty-cent coins, reasoning that he can perhaps give the lighter to the elevator boy. He then asks the blind man if he has completely lost his sight. The blind man, eager to embellish his story in the hope of receiving beggarly donations from Mr. Parsons, begins to relate the incident in which he lost his sight.

The blind man tells Mr. Parsons that he lost his sight in an accident at “Westbury.” Mr. Parsons indicates that he is aware of the incident, which was reported as one of the most catastrophic events to strike the area. He also states that the papers have not followed the story for years. The blind man complains that most people have forgotten the incident, although the victims do not have the luxury of doing so. Then, the blind man begins to recount the story of the accident that blinded him permanently.

Just as he begins his story, Mr. Parsons coughs uncomfortably. However, the blind salesman continues with his story because he hopes that Mr. Parsons will pity him enough to give him “more half dollars.” According to the blind man, he and others were working in “C shop” when a chemical explosion occurred. There were many casualties of the accident. Some were killed; some were injured and some were blinded by the disaster.

The blind man suggests that there was less honor for the victims of the explosion than there was for those who were killed or injured during “the war.” He insinuates that injured veterans have ongoing governmental compensation for their service, while the workers in the plant have nothing. He criticizes the owners of the company, who profited from the risks that the employees undertook as they worked in the plant. He also complains that while those injured and blind employees had no compensation for their injuries, the company had insurance policies to protect it from heavy losses. Mr. Parsons interjects, explaining that he sells insurance. The blind man took no note of his remark. Instead, he continues to recount his colorful...

(The entire section is 948 words.)