The city in which the people of Saramago's novel go blind has no name. Neither have the streets and places within the story. Parallel to this philosophy, Saramago does not let his characters have any proper names either. The reason for such namelessness may well be the importance he attaches to the theme of his work, which surpasses that of the identity of his characters. In other words, they remain unidentified to further highlight the writer's conviction that in the modern world we human beings have completely lost our identities. It is, as well, Saramago's goal that his characters exceed the framework of his novel and refer to anybody in the modern era.
In spite of the characters' namelessness, however, each fictional person at the center of the story is described with a prominent characteristic. Interestingly enough, these defining features have something to do with either their state of vision or their profession and relation to those with sight problems. Hence we have the ophthalmologist and the ophthalmologist's wife, "the doctor" and "the doctor's wife," "the first blind man," the car thief who stole the car of the first blind man, the patients at the ophthalmologist's office who are: "the old man with a black patch over one eye," "the cross-eyed boy," and the girl "with dark glasses." None of the members of this group are able to see properly and, as the novel proceeds, even those whose job it was to help the visually handicapped, lose their sight one by one.
When it comes to a discussion of characters in Saramago's work, it is not possible to ignore the importance he attaches to women in his novels. Saramago's high regard for female characters in Blindness manifests itself not only in the significantly vital role he assigns to the "doctor's wife" as the only person who "can see" in the entire city, but also in the overall portrayal of women in this work. The author displays his contempt for aggression, injustice, and gang terror in Blindness, mostly through men who embody humankind's basest characteristics. In the same way, women become the passive victims of the crimes men commit and innocently fall prey to their aggression and blind lust. The assertiveness of the "doctor's wife" and the marginal roles Saramago assigns to his male characters are closely related to the writer's practical experience...
(The entire section is 594 words.)