A man sitting in his car at a traffic signal suddenly goes blind. He is helped by another man, who drives him home but then steals his car. Soon, more citizens of the city go blind. The blindness, characterized by victims seeing only a creamy whiteness, spreads through the city and quickly becomes endemic. As panic sweeps the general populace, the government takes action to isolate the blind in an asylum.
The quarantined persons are guarded by military troops who facilitate the delivery of food and other necessities. More and more people become infected, and the social order, both inside and outside the asylum, starts to break down. As the numbers of quarantined people grow to unmanageable proportions, conditions become horrific. The asylum develops into a filthy place of horrible acts. The newly formed society of the blind becomes a place where criminals control the supply of food, demanding jewels and other valuables at first, then exchanging the meager food supply for sex.
The degenerating conditions within the asylum mirror the overall breakdown of society in the city. The soldiers guarding the internees become increasingly hostile. As one soldier after another becomes infected by the blindness as well, discipline in the ranks dissolves. The soldiers fire upon a group of blind internees who are waiting for food.
Seven internees band together as a way to survive the chaos within the asylum. The group is led by the wife of an ophthalmologist who has inexplicably escaped the blindness. She enters the asylum with her husband, feigning blindness and revealing to no one that she can see.
The group functions like a family, each member protecting another. The situation within the asylum becomes unbearable, and the group is desperate for a way out. With the help of the doctor’s wife, who can find food and water, they succeed in escaping the asylum, only to find conditions in the city equally appalling. The breakdown within society is nearly complete. No government services are available. Police, schools, hospitals, and all other forms of collective governance are nonexistent. Violence is rampant. People live wherever they can find any form of shelter. Families are divided, and family members wander around the city, endlessly searching for each other. People distrust all others, and the fabric of the social order is completely destroyed.
The doctor and his wife slowly entice others to construct a new society, with a new form of existence. Little by little, the new family starts to build a new life. They find a home and start creating order within their group. Once a human-centered harmony is restored, the blindness starts to end; it ultimately disappears, as suddenly and inexplicably as it had begun.
Blindness depicts an epidemic of blindness that turns everything to an inchoate whiteness, bringing chaos and criminality in its wake. In an effort to cope with the epidemic, the authorities imprison the blind in a former mental institution, where the scarce and putrid food, the crowding and the uncleanness is made worse by the increasingly bad behavior of its blind inmates. The breakdown of morality reaches its nadir with the rise of a band of blind men who victimize and humiliate the other prisoners through such criminal activities as theft, rape, and terror. It becomes clear that the literal blindness of the city’s inhabitants is a metaphor for a pathology of consciousness that locks an individual within himself or herself, depriving that person of the ability to perceive his or her own humanity and the humanity of others. A base spiritual condition, this psychological blindness leads to a degraded world of predators and prey, criminals and victims, with no hope of change or progress.
Within this collapsing society, however, a little group of seven people begin to work together to retain their humanity. The leader of this group is the Doctor’s Wife, who has loyally accompanied her ophthalmologist husband to the asylum even though she...
(The entire section is 1,023 words.)