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This node includes spoilers for the H.G. Wells short story "The Country of the Blind." The pipelinks are intended to be interesting and/or funny, and do not necessarily represent my, H.G. Wells's, or anyone else's views.

Possibly the best of H.G. Wells's short stories, "The Country of the Blind" tells the story of a mountaineer named Nunez who falls into a valley that has been closed off from the outside world for many generations. The population had been infected by a virus which destroyed their sight before a landslide made it impossible for them to escape; now, none of them are born with any sight at all.

Nunez, remembering the old saying in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed are kings, believes that he will be able to achieve power and control in the Country of the Blind because of his sight. However, as he spends more time among the blind, he discovers that he cannot single-handedly change their customs, which make it easier to survive without sight than with it. The Blind consider him to be crazy because he doesn't "see" things the same way they do, and relegate him to the lowest place in their society.

As time goes on, he accepts his role, and even falls in love with a Blind girl. However, the girl's father is not willing to accept her marrying a man known to be crazy. The doctors in the valley examine Nunez again, and decide that his madness is caused by his well-developed eyes; they propose that to cure it, they should puncture them. Although begged by his girlfriend to undergo the treatment, in the end Nunez cannot accept the loss of his sight, and climbs out of the valley. As the story ends, he is lying on a plateau, looking at the stars.

There are predictably many interpretations for "The Country of the Blind." One common interpretation contends that the Blind represent society, and Nunez represents the individual. Despite his seeing things that the rest of society cannot, the individual is forced to conform and accept society's view rather than having his own respected. While this is most obvious in the case of certain individuals whose ideas were truly ahead of the rest of society, it is probably true of everyone to a degree, and that is likely Wells's meaning. He doesn't make Nunez a great mind, or even necessarily a great mountaineer. He's just an ordinary person, like the rest of us, who sees things a little differently.

Equally interesting to me is the portrayal of the disease and the society of the Blind. Wells states that while the initial bearers of the disease lost their sight, after several generations, people were no longer born with sight at all. If we see the blind as society, is Wells suggesting that society's brainwashing is so complete that most people never have a chance to see anything differently?

Science Fiction: the Science Fiction Research Anthology, edited by Warrick, Waugh and Greenberg was consulted in the preparation of this node.

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