HG Wells, Country of the Blind

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#1


It was, he found, much more difficult to proclaim himself than he had supposed, and in the meantime, while he meditated his coup d'etat, he did what he was told and learnt the manners and customs of the Country of the Blind. He found working and going about at night a particularly irksome thing, and he decided that that should be the first thing he would change.

Short Story Intermission -

H.G. Wells, The Country of the Blind, 1904.


Text available at: http://www.readprint.com/work-1482/The-Country-of-the-Blind-H-G-Wells


Open for discussion on Sunday, 18 April, 2010.
 
Last edited:

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#3
HG Wells was born somewhere in Britain, sometime in the latter decades of the nineteenth-century. He needs no introduction here.

Country of the Blind is probably his best known short-story. Its an unusual piece for a variety of reasons: its easy reversal of the common saw that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the fact that the protagonist is unable to communicate; and in the way that our normal perceptions become redundant when their mode of communication is removed. The tale is thematically rich … so there is plenty to talk about.


Thread open.
 
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
#4
The first thought that struck my mind, was what a funny name for a mountain in Ecuador--Parascotopetl. It almost sounds like Nahuatl since the Nahuatl word for mountain is tepetl, but it hardly sounds like something in Mapuche or Quichua, the two most common native tongues in Ecuador.

The second idea that hit me is more significant for historians or other social studies. Communication between two cultures--or between two times--is difficult because of different nuances of words and because of different conceptions of reality.

Communication and conception of reality are two things I think might be key to Wells' thought.
 
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
#5
A second reflection that seems worth working through is that in Golding's Lord of the Flies, the castaways soon descended into a Hobbesian state of nature where life is "solitary, poor, vicious, ugly and short."

In The Country of the Blind, for all that the original group had had a society, they seem to have slid into a Lockean state of nature. They further developed their society so they had elders and laws. Locke would have predicted that. The "laws" are symbolized by the rule "Keep off the grass." I visualized signs all over the place saying "PLEASE KEEP OFF GRASS." :D
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#6
Communication and conception of reality are two things I think might be key to Wells' thought.
Very much so, communication and perception were certainly key to Well’s way of viewing the world. I think there was a touch of the mechanist in his soul in that he saw education as the key to solving all problems. One critic said Well’s believed that “history could even be fixed by education.” Some additional themes I see in the story are:
  • A community will adapt and overcome its disabilities.
  • A community comes to accept that their ‘fault’ is normal behavior.
  • Such a community will remains blind to any other perspective. (bad pun intended) And will resort to violence even to maintain the ‘fictions’ by which they live.
  • The story may also be seen as a allegory of the smart versus the not so smart.
  • Fear of the outsider.
  • Maxims have their opposites. An example that come to mind; ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ versus ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
All of these could make for separate threads*. Anyone want to take one up?

essays also welcome
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#7
One more theme.
Our hero believes that he has been selected to be their 'heaven-sent king and master'. This is the fatal flaw in his character, the hubris that makes the story a greek tragedy, the valley citizens supplying the chorus.
 
Jan 2009
3,333
Minneapolis, MN
#8
One more theme.
Our hero believes that he has been selected to be their 'heaven-sent king and master'. This is the fatal flaw in his character, the hubris that makes the story a greek tragedy, the valley citizens supplying the chorus.
An excellent point. In the version I read as a child, Nunez somehow escaped the valley with Maria-sarote. That ending would have been much more satisfying to me when I was young. But this remark well shows why it had to end the way it did in this earlier version.

Another point using high school criticism terminology: This story is written from an omniscient narrator POV. It could have been more interesting from a first person POV by Nunez. But it would have been a very different story. How would one work in the background of the Country of the Blind? How would we get the story from the narrator after he died? How would we understand the thoughts of the people? It could all be worked out, but it would probably make for a more complex story.
 

Rosi

Historum Emeritas
Jul 2008
6,242
#9
Well, I read this story the day it was posted and have been waiting for the discussion to open.

I agree with Avon, very rich thematically, very poignant, and one of those stories that stay with you forever. I wonder though what you guys made of the ending of the story? It's quite open and whilst that in some cases adds to the richness of the narrative, given where I am in life right now, I find open endings a bit difficult to put up with. They seem almost a cop out to me. Wells could have easily given the tale a proper ending but he didn't. Why?

So I would just like to know how the readers here have interpreted the ending of the story.

Thank you.
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#10
An excellent point. In the version I read as a child, Nunez somehow escaped the valley with Maria-sarote. That ending would have been much more satisfying to me when I was young. But this remark well shows why it had to end the way it did in this earlier version.
Wells revised the ending in a later, 1939, version. He switched the last 300 words for an alternative ending of 2000 words. The version that we linked to above is the 1904 version.
 

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