LITERATURE: Blindness – Borders of Another Kind

After (I don't know) days of living confined to the institution, a purposely-set fire kills some inmates but the others must somehow escape or burn to death and it is at this point where the doctor's wife tells the others that she can see as she attempts to lead them out to safety. The soldiers are gone, the gate is open, they are finally free. Saramago's prose hasn't exactly set me afire, but there are some nice words here:

Say to a blind man, you're fee, open the door that was separating him from the world, Go, you are free, we tell him once more, and he does not go, he has remained motionless there in the middle of the road, he and the others, they are terrified, they do not know where to go, the fact is that there is no comparison between living in a rational labyrinth, which is, by definition, a mental asylum and venturing forth, without a guiding hand or a dog-leash, into the demented labyrinth of the city, … (p. 217)

We've all had that feeling of being in a strange place, the image comes to mind of getting off a plane in a country you've never been to before. Or hiking up a hill and arriving at the crest to find miles of open horizon to view. The boundaries of a confined but known arena often offer more freedom than the open expanse of the unknown.

Boundaries then, are made in the mind as well and are as restrictive as a wooden fence or barbed wire strung out along a defined space. The individual will each have his own response based on likes and dislikes, comfort zones, spirit of adventure, city versus country preferences, etc. In Saramago's world of blindness however, I doubt any reader could fail to understand the fear of the openness outside the gates.

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