(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Blindness is a serious book written by a serious novelist who has always taken his job seriously. The novel's rich texture lends itself to study the work thematically from several perspectives.

Blindness can be considered a critique of social norms in our modern world. In this respect, it also points out the shortcomings of technology as well as the inadequacy of human knowledge when it comes to the simple question of addressing mankind's basic needs. As already discussed in the previous section, this novel discusses fundamental problems in life such as hunger and disease—this is ironic because Saramago examines a civilization with complicated networks developed over centuries, yet one that is incapable of meeting the most basic needs when disaster strikes. In fact, the horrifying mental asylum in which the blind have to live is a replica of our present-day prisons. The horror mainly arises, however, from the fact that eventually, when blindness—figuratively, ignorance—becomes widespread, there is no distinction between the blind, gloomy world of the inmates and that of ordinary people outside.

The novel can also be seen as a political commentary on the futility of the goals of different political parties and regimes throughout ages, and their practical indifference towards the fate of the people whose lives they claim to be concerned about. The quarantine of the blind is no doubt reminiscent of the death camps the writer is so familiar with. Saramago's memories of fascist brutality can, indeed, be clearly traced in the struggles of the blind inmates within the mental asylum.

From a philosophical standpoint, the novelist deals with the concept of ignorance and its dangerously contagious nature among human beings. In order to impart to his readers the seriousness of the epidemic, the author reveals how an ophthalmologist—whose job is to cure visual impairments— himself falls victim to the contagious disease. What Saramago is also metaphorically suggesting is that, in the long run, even the few enlightened people who are capable of diagnosing social diseases are capable of ignoring others' needs. What is worse, they may also, reluctantly and fully aware of the dire consequences, act just as reprehensibly as the unenlightened. Saramago constantly reexamines issues of ignorance and wisdom throughout the narration. The disease is, in this way, an allegory for "not being able to see." Saramago himself states that he wrote Blindness "to remind everyone who reads it that, when we debase life, we pervert our reason, that the dignity of human beings is abused everyday by those in power, that the...

(The entire section is 1084 words.)