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Last Updated on July 20, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 224

“The Country of the Blind” by H. G. Wells tells the story of Nuñez, who is blind in one eye and who travels to a village in the Andes Mountains that was cut off from the rest of civilization by an earthquake fifteen generations before. In the village, everyone is...

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“The Country of the Blind” by H. G. Wells tells the story of Nuñez, who is blind in one eye and who travels to a village in the Andes Mountains that was cut off from the rest of civilization by an earthquake fifteen generations before. In the village, everyone is blind, and they know nothing of the concept of sight. Therefore, they deny its existence. However, their other senses are so sharp that their blindness is actually a gift. Nuñez has had heard of the village’s fabled existence, and he believes in the ancient proverb that “in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” The proverb proves to be incorrect, however, as Nuñez is believed to be disabled by a form of madness and is relegated to serfdom.

Nuñez falls in love with a village girl named Medina, and he seeks permission to marry her. The villagers agree, but only if he has his eyes removed, as they are believed to be the cause of his madness. The villagers believe that his constant obsession with a nonexistent sense is causing his irrational behavior. Nuñez, in his love for Medina, agrees to have his eyes removed but escapes the village at the last minute and begins searching the mountains for a passage out of the valley.

Summary

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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 803

Long years ago, a valley in Ecuador’s Andes was accessible to all. Then came a great landslide that cut the valley off from the outside world. An early settler who chanced to be outside the valley when the earthquake occurred was never able to return. Before he died, he described the place whence he came. A place where it never rained or snowed, it was a virtual utopia until a strange disease rendered everyone blind. Because people then considered sin to be the cause of disease, the settler was chosen to leave the valley to find priests to build a shrine that would buy holy help from the blindness. The mountain moved, however, so the settler could never return.

Lost to civilization, the valley was forgotten by the outside world and the disease ran its course. After fifteen generations had passed, the ways of the blind became the custom and culture. It then chances that a young man inadvertently enters the valley.

The stranger named Núñez is a mountaineer who has seen the world. While guiding a party of climbers, he falls from a mountain during the night. Although he tumbles more than a thousand feet, he survives. The next morning he climbs further downward until he finds himself among meadows dotted with flocks of llamas. He sees a cluster of strange windowless stone huts and remarks to himself that the builder “must have been as blind as a bat.”

After shouting to three man who cannot tell where he is, Núñez realizes that he must be in the legendary Country of the Blind. He advances toward the men with the confidence of a sighted man thinking of the old proverb: In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. He tells the men that he comes from Bogota in a country where people can see. Sensing that Núñez is not like them, the men hold him fast and examine him with their hands. As they perceive the malformation of his eyes, Núñez assures them that he can see. Because Núñez appears to be speaking nonsense words, such as “sight” and “see,” they decide he is a wildman and give him the name of “Bogota.”

When Núñez is taken before the elders, who have long since abandoned belief that the people of the valley ever had sight, he realizes that what he perceives as a miraculous gift is deemed as a flaw by those around him. He cannot even make the people understand that they are blind. After failing to impress them with his superior ability, Núñez considers using force; however, as a civilized person he cannot strike a blind man.

One day, Núñez walks on grass that is in a protected area and he refuses to get back on the path. The villagers drive him outside of the city walls. After two days without food and shelter, he returns and attempts to come to terms with his captors. Claiming that he now is wiser, he repents of all he has done. The blind people regard his rebellion as a mark of general idiocy; they whip him and give him the simplest and heaviest work to do. Seeing no alternative, Núñez acquiesces.

Núñez’s adoptive family is that of old Yacob. Yacob’s youngest daughter is Medina-Sarote, who is little esteemed in the world of the blind because her closed eyelids are not sunken as those of the other blind people. Finding her attractive, Núñez tells her about his ability to see and she appears to understand. Eventually Yacob understands that Núñez wishes to marry Medina-Sarote. Although no other village man wants to marry Medina-Sarote, there is opposition. Her sisters oppose it on the grounds that it discredits them, Yacob on the grounds that Núñez is an idiot, and the young men on the grounds that it will corrupt the race. Medina-Sarote is inconsolable, so Yacob goes to the elders to ask for advice. One of them who is a great doctor and philosopher believes that Núñez is better than when he first arrived and that he can be cured. The cure is to make Núñez just like everybody else—blind. “Thank Heaven for science,” Yacob states.

The choice belongs to Núñez. He has believed that Medina-Sarote understands the meaning of sight, but he soon realizes that she does not. She urges him to subject himself to the surgery that will remove his eyes, but he elects not to do so. At first he intends to simply retreat to a place of solitude, but he instead leaves the city and begins to climb out of the valley, satisfied merely to escape from the valley in which he had thought he would become the king.

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