The Country of the Blind by H. G. Wells

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Summary

“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 traveled to the village, as he had heard of its fabled existence, and he believed 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

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 1,030 words.)