Last Updated on September 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 423
The "Blind Man" of the work's title, Maurice was wounded while serving in the British army during the First World War. After the war, he retires to a farm in the midlands with his pregnant wife, Isabel, where his moods fluctuate from ecstatic revelry to crushing depression to stable and efficient flow regarding the workings of his farm. He enjoys a very close relationship to Isabel but is most at home in the world of nature constituted by his farmland—and especially by his barn, wherein he is familiar with every detail. Touch is the sense Maurice uses to interact with the world, and his request to touch Bertie is motivated by a desire to get to know the other man better. Having this request granted means a great deal to him and enables him to look on the other man as a friend at last.
Isabel is a literary woman who makes money by writing books for a Scottish publication. In one sense, she is very happily married and relishes the opportunity to support her husband in negotiating the difficulties posed by his injury. However, she does miss the social whirl of the city and of public life, and is glad when her childhood friend Bertie comes to their farm for a visit. Isabel is pregnant at the beginning of the novel and, like her husband, is very keen that her child survive and prosper, given the fact that the couple's firstborn had died some time earlier.
Bertie is a Scottish barrister who has enjoyed a close friendship with Isabel since their childhood. He is witty and sharp in conversation, and well informed on a variety of issues—for which Isabel is glad, as he provides an interesting contrast to both her husband's more rustic sense of the world and the general isolation of their farm. However, Bertie has many androgynous mannerisms which disgust Isabel. While he is afraid and even somewhat repulsed by his host's wound, Bertie has a generous spirit and is keen to help the other man as best he can. When he meets him in the barn, he responds in the affirmative to Maurice's request to touch his face, despite the nameless terror with which he associates such a request. While Maurice has grown fond of Bertie by the end of the story, Bertie feels dominated and destroyed by his contact with Maurice, and he desires nothing so much as an escape from the intimacy into which he has been drawn by Maurice and Isabel.
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