Science Fiction Friday: The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells

foggy hills
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The Country of the Blind lies in a valley in the Andes Mountains that is entirely isolated from the rest of the world. It is a valley gifted with fertile soil, a temperate climate, and an abundance of animals and fresh water. All of the children born into this country are blind.

A lost mountaineer appears in the valley one day and enters their village. The people are fascinated by his speech and mannerisms, deciding based on his awkward movements and speech that his senses are imperfectly formed. The man is amused, and tries to tell them that they are the ones lacking in knowledge and ability because they cannot see. But “see” and “sight” are words they don’t understand for they don’t exist in their society. They take him to be a common idiot who constantly rambles about things that don’t exist and they tell him he has too big of an imagination. The harder he tries to convince them of the beauty of the world outside their valley and of all the people and places he knows, the less they believe him.

Despite his anger and violence towards them, the blind people tolerate the man and allow him to stay in their village because he has nowhere else to go. After a time he falls in love with one of the blind girls but is told that the only way he can be with her is if he consents to a surgery that will render him blind, so that he may become a better person. Better, according to them.

The night before his surgery is planned he walks away from the valley. Even though he thinks he might have a reason to stay, he cannot bring himself to determine at what cost he must decide. The fate of the mountaineer is not revealed, and we are left to decide for ourselves what may have happened. Did he leave the valley for good and return to his own town? Did he change his mind and go back, his heart telling him he must return to the woman he loves?

Understanding and respecting the differences between other people’s strengths and weakness is one of the themes in The Country of the Blind. In this story, no one person can see better than another, and the words see and sight take on entirely new meanings. Although this story might not read as explicitly science fiction, its dystopian qualities are what make it so.

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