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Blind Love Summary

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Blind Love” is one of Pritchett’s most poignant and compelling short stories. Through an almost unnoticeable flashback technique the reader perceives a full delineation of the character of Mr. Armitage, a lawyer who has been blind for twenty years, and Mrs. Johnson, a secretary/housekeeper, who has a huge scar extending from the neck down across her chest. Armitage, who has a house in the country, is wealthy; he travels regularly into London to carry on his business affairs. For two years, these two have led a quiet but rather satisfying life. Mrs. Johnson goes regularly to church. Both have been divorced by their mates: Armitage’s wife departed because of her husband’s blindness, while Mrs. Johnson’s husband, on their wedding night, was disgusted with her unsightly scar. Mrs. Johnson had not told her husband of this disfigurement, conceding in retrospect that she had been blinded by love. Armitage has instructed Mrs. Johnson that nothing is ever to be disturbed. One day, however, while in the garden, he is tripped by his dog near the swimming pool; he falls into the water and is rescued. In her kind attempt to help her employer, Mrs. Johnson enters his bedroom and starts to help him obtain dry clothes. She breaks the cardinal rule, and Armitage demands that she get out and leave him alone. Mrs. Johnson, rebuffed by his rudeness, decides that since she has not enjoyed the country she should leave Armitage’s employ. Shortly thereafter, Armitage apologizes and presses sexual attention on Mrs. Johnson, and they make love. Still defensive, Mrs. Johnson considers the lovemaking an act of revenge against her former husband. At this point neither person’s handicap is a barrier to sex, one of the ironies for which Pritchett was famous.

Throughout the story, religious imagery prevails. Both Armitage and Mrs. Johnson fall into the pool, experiencing a kind of baptism. Armitage makes Mrs. Johnson rub spittle and dirt on his eyes to cure his blindness, just as Christ cured the blind man in Scripture. Both characters have wounds. There is an attempt at faith healing when Armitage goes to Mr. Smith, who preaches the spiritual life but who is obese and has two of everything. When Mrs. Johnson falls into the pool, is rescued, and cries that Mr. Smith saw her sunbathing near the pool nude and perceived her as a “plate of liver,” she and Armitage experience a moment of epiphany. The story ends with the two aware that they no longer need to view their handicaps as weapons. Although both have been physically and emotionally scarred by fate, their defects have led to self-understanding and to a love for each other. Both have lost their pride as they sense their mutual need. They wed, the reader believes, and go to Italy, where Mrs. Johnson becomes the eyes for both of them as they visit churches, museums, and architectural...

(The entire section is 710 words.)