Blindness Book Summary – José Saramago

Blindness Book Summary - José Saramago
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“Blindness” is a novel written in 1995 by the Portuguese author José Saramago. It is a work of allegory, science fiction, thriller, and psychological fiction. “Blindness” is one of the most famous novels by José Saramago, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1998.

Summary Of Blindness

At a busy intersection, a driver suddenly stops when the traffic light turns green, causing confusion and anger among other drivers. The man yells that he has suddenly gone blind, seeing only a sea of white. Another driver helps the blind man to his apartment, but the blind man breaks a vase, cuts himself on the shards, and faints on the couch.

When his wife returns home, she helps him. It is later revealed that the man who helped him was a thief who stole their car. Thus, the blind man and his wife take a taxi to an eye doctor. The doctor is baffled because there is no visible issue with the blind man’s eyes and his condition is unprecedented. The doctor concludes that they can only “wait and see.”

After the blind man’s appointment, the car thief also goes blind suddenly. Later that night, the doctor himself goes blind. One of the doctor’s patients, a young woman wearing dark glasses due to an eye infection, also goes blind while with a man in a hotel. Two different police officers escort the car thief and the woman with dark glasses to their homes. Meanwhile, the doctor realizes that the blindness is highly contagious and informs his wife about his condition. The doctor then calls the Ministry of Health, which initiates quarantine measures and sends an ambulance for him. His wife insists on accompanying him and pretends to be blind to stay by his side.

The quarantine is set up in an abandoned mental hospital guarded by armed soldiers. The doctor and his wife are the first to arrive, followed by the first blind man, the car thief, the woman with dark glasses, and a young boy with strabismus who had visited the doctor the previous day. The government announces strict rules for the internees to prevent the spread of the “white sickness.”

The anxious patients choose the doctor as their leader, but he declines, fearing future arrivals will reject his authority. Meanwhile, the car thief harasses the woman with dark glasses, but she defends herself, causing a severe wound on his leg, which the doctor’s wife tends to as best she can.

The next morning, the doctor’s wife worries that everyone should look out for each other. More patients arrive, including the first blind man’s wife and several minor characters. The car thief’s wound becomes seriously infected, and despite the doctor’s and his wife’s pleas, the soldiers refuse to provide medicine.

After lunch, another group of patients arrives, and that night, the desperate car thief crawls out to the soldiers to ask for medicine. However, he frightens a guard who shoots him, and the sergeant orders the blind to bury the body. The blind manage to get a shovel and bury the car thief in a shallow grave. When the soldiers bring in dinner, they face a group of hungry blind people in the hallway. Terrified, the soldiers kill nine of them. The doctor leads the burial of his section’s dead, but those in the adjacent section refuse to help bury their dead. In the hospital’s filthy bathroom, the doctor confronts the reality of “becoming an animal.”

Blindness Novel Summary

The internees begin to lose all sense of time and routine. The soldiers decide to leave the food outside the hospital rather than enter, but the blind people get lost while searching for it. A guard almost kills a blind man demanding food, but the sergeant stops him. Hundreds of new patients arrive and fight for beds. Some sleep in the corridors, others fear encountering the pile of corpses in the hospital yard. The narrator later mentions that the hospital is now full, and the internees finally have enough food.

One new arrival is an elderly man with a black eye patch, another of the doctor’s patients, who tells the others about the city’s state: The government has failed to control the epidemic, followed by a series of catastrophes. The city is mostly blind, with public services collapsed and streets filled with abandoned cars. The narrator implies that it might be better for the patients to remember the last things they saw while in the hospital.

With the hospital overcrowded, it becomes unimaginably dirty due to broken plumbing and people unable to see where to relieve themselves. Considering revealing that she can see, the doctor’s wife hesitates. Before she can do so, a gang seizes control of the food supply and demands valuables in exchange for rations. The doctor’s group reluctantly agrees, but the gang gives so little food that they begin to starve. The doctor’s wife realizes she can stop the gang alone and sneaks into their section at night. As desperation grows, the gang demands women in exchange for food and systematically rapes them.

The women, in despair, wait their turn to be assaulted. In a moment of weakness, the doctor and the woman with dark glasses have an affair, which the doctor’s wife observes but consoles them instead of condemning. A romantic relationship also begins between the woman with dark glasses and the old man with the eye patch. One night, the doctor’s wife stabs the gang leader in the throat, killing him, and a chaotic fight ensues. After fleeing with the women, she grapples with what she has done.

After the leader’s death, the gang loses power but retains the food supply. No new food arrives, and without the soldiers’ help, some of the starving internees decide they were better off under the gang’s rule. The internees attempt to attack the thieves in various ways but fail as the thieves block the entrance with several beds.

The doctor’s wife reveals that she can see, and one unnamed woman takes matters into her own hands: she sets fire to the beds blocking the thieves’ entrance, burning down the entire section with the thieves inside. The hospital catches fire, and the patients exit, but the soldiers are gone—the whole city is eerily quiet and dark. Lost and confused, the internees spend the night by the burned hospital, hoping the soldiers will return with food in vain.

The next morning, the blind internees are free but still lost and starving. The doctor’s wife leads a small group (herself, her husband, the woman with dark glasses, the old man with the eye patch, the first blind man and his wife, and the boy with strabismus) through the city, where blindness has left people sheltering in shops. One person explains that the country is now blind, and people spend their days scavenging for food.

The doctor’s wife goes out to find food and discovers a supermarket filled with people but no food. She finds a basement storage and fills several bags with food. On her way out, she decides not to tell others about it and gets lost, breaking down in tears. A stray dog licks her tears and guides her back home.

Now well-fed and clothed, the group moves to the woman with dark glasses’ former apartment. Her parents are gone, but an old blind neighbor survives by eating anything she finds in the courtyard, including raw chickens and rabbits. This woman has the keys to the girl’s apartment and opens it in exchange for some food.

The group spends the night there but moves to the doctor’s and his wife’s apartment the next afternoon, finding everything as they left it. Here, the “seven pilgrims” establish their home: the doctor’s wife helps with the cleaning, women wash themselves in the morning rain, and everyone washes their clothes on the balcony. Later that day, the doctor’s wife takes the first blind man and his wife to their old apartment, now occupied by a blind writer. Although he can no longer read his work, he continues to write to avoid losing himself.

The doctor, his wife, and the woman with dark glasses visit the doctor’s office, now looted. They return to the girl’s apartment to check on her parents. They pass a loudspeaker preaching apocalyptic warnings to a blind crowd. When they arrive, they find the old woman dead, holding the girl’s keys. The doctor’s wife buries her, and the girl leaves a lock of her hair on the front door handle before returning home. The doctor’s wife reads a story to the group, and the woman with dark glasses and the old man with the eye patch reaffirm their love.

Later, the doctor and his wife go to the supermarket to search for food. Accompanied by the dog, they pass another preacher addressing the blind crowd about laws and government. In the supermarket’s basement storage, the doctor’s wife finds a pile of dead bodies, and as she leaves, she locks the room to keep others out. Overcome with nausea and guilt, she crosses the street to a church and faints.

When the doctor’s wife regains consciousness, she notices that all the eyes in the church’s pictures are covered with paint or cloth strips and debates the symbolism with the doctor. Hearing this, the surrounding blind worshipers riot and leave the church, leaving the doctor and his wife to gather the abandoned food.

Returning to the apartment, the doctor’s wife reads a book to the group. As she reads, the first blind man suddenly regains his sight, and the group rejoices. The next morning, everyone can see again, and the city streets are filled with celebrating people. The doctor declares that all people were “blind who, seeing, did not see.”

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