Book Review: “The Country of The Blind” by H.G. Wells


*Possible Spoilers Below*

“The Country of The Blind” is one of the most popular stories that H.G. Wells penned in the 20th century. H.G. Wells is known for exploring very creative, abstract, and scientific ideas in his stories. He practically invented “The Time Machine” in the 19th century, discussed the ability of invisibility in “The Invisible Man” (Which later was adapted into a classic monster and horror film by Universal Studios), and also touches on alien invasion and genetic engineering in his other books. Wells wrote two different versions of “The Country of The Blind”, the original in 1904 ends with the story’s protagonist alive in the mountains, cut, bruised, starving, but free from the blind. Wells later revised this story over a quarter of a century later, adding 3,000 words and ending the story with Nunez rushing back into The Country of The Blind to save his blind lover, Medina-Sarote, where afterwords they live happily ever after among the sighted people and have four kids.

I read the revised 1939 edition of this short story. While in my opinion this is not the best Wells story I have ever read, it is the one that sent me into deep thought and made me dissociate with myself. Nunez, our protagonist, stumbles into fabled, pitch-black Country of The Blind on accident while exploring in the Andes mountains. Nunez, realizing everyone around him is completely blind, remembers the saying: “In The Country of The Blind The One-Eyed Man is King!”. Nunez expects these people who have become completely blind after fourteen generations to worship him as a god and a king. What Wells does in this story though is touch upon the theory that if you loose one of your five senses, then your other four sense enhance, making up for what was lost. These blind people have no concept of vision, sight, seeing, or appearance. Instead they view Nunez as a madman and a cripple, refusing to believe that sight exists. Nunez begins to feel this way about himself as he attempts to demonstrate his ability of sight, but instead is made inferior whenever the blind can do everything he can do, but more efficiently. They can hear Nunez whenever he picks up a spade, or whenever he is walking around a corner, whereas Nunez would be unable to see anything that lies behind a corner until it makes it’s way around it, into sight.

One could compare Nunez stumbling into The Country of The Blind to a humanoid extraterrestrial, who looks like us but possesses six senses, visiting Earth with the intention of an invasion as a King. If the Alien needed all six senses to navigate his home world, but it made all of his other five senses less potent, would the Alien feel like Nunez and be the inferior being? As a human with all five senses, I could not mentally comprehend what a sixth sense would be, much like I can not comprehend a new color existing, my body and mind will not allow it, because it is unnecessary for a human to need that to thrive on Earth.

Due to this story being based around sight, I found H.G. Wells to drag on about visual descriptions in his old English formats, which made me incapable of paying attention to it at all times, especially during the first half of this story. Instead I would find my eyes drifting down each line and on to the next one but I would be lost in thought about vision and perception.

If you are a Wells fan and you are interested in reading this story, I would recommend you not really read it for the story, but it’s concept. I find the revised version to be sort of useless in this way. I find the story’s happy ending to be dull. It says that they have four children and all four are sighted, completely erasing the work that genetics did for fourteen generations on Medina-Sarote’s side. I guess that would make sight the dominant gene over blind, however this completely negates the message of the story to me. If the blind have superior hearing and touch, would genetics not see these traits as superior and give them to the children instead? I guess it is because Medina-Sarote’s people have only been going blind for fourteen to fifteen generations, while Nunez’s ancestors have shared his gift of sight and inferior hearing since humans started to evolve. I guess I just don’t like happy endings.

Publication Date: 1904 / Revised in 1939.

Genres: Science Fiction.

Word Count: I did research and it said 9.5k words. However I do not know if this applies to the 1904 version, or the revised version with 3k words added.

i. e. 7.5/10

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