Literature Annotations


Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert)
The Blind Man


Genre Short Story (27 pp.)
KeywordsBlindness, Body Self-Image, Children, Communication, Death and Dying, Depression, Disability, Grief, Loneliness, Love, Memory, Ordinary Life, Parenthood, Pregnancy, Survival, Trauma
Summary

Two men who are not very fond of one another and opposites in almost every way are brought together by their affection for the same woman. Isabel is the 30-year-old wife of Maurice Pervin and the longtime friend of Bertie Reid. While fighting in Flanders during World War I, Maurice is blinded and sustains a disfiguring facial scar. He also has episodes of major depression. Maurice and Isabel have become socially isolated since his injury. Although their first child died in infancy, Isabel is pregnant again and due to deliver soon.

Bertie, a bachelor and barrister, pays a visit. The three of them enjoy dinner together. Afterwards, Maurice becomes restless and leaves the house. When Bertie goes out to check on him, he finds Maurice in the barn. The blind man asks Bertie for permission to touch him. With one hand, Maurice examines Bertie's skull, face, and arm.

He then asks Bertie to touch his useless eyes and awful scar. Without warning, Maurice places his hand on top of Bertie's fingers, which still rest upon the maimed face. The experience is a revelation for both men. Maurice suddenly understands the splendor of friendship while Bertie realizes how much he fears intimacy.

Commentary

Although communication, disability, and human connection are three important issues considered in "The Blind Man," a major lesson of the story is aptly summed up by the character, Bertie: "I suppose we're all deficient somewhere" (92). The ending of this tale has a visceral power. The final three pages depicting the emotional transformation (facilitated by the simple act of touching) of the two male characters are riveting.

The conclusion reminds readers of the joy and responsibility of human intimacy. The entire story underscores the difficulty and possibility of rebuilding damaged lives and overcoming loss. There are striking similarities between "The Blind Man" and Raymond Carver's Cathedral (see this database). These two short stories work especially well when read together. Both of them make a convincing argument that of all five human senses, touch is the most powerful.

SourceEngland, My England
PublisherThomas Seltzer
Edition1922
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousThe story was first published in 1920 in English Review.
Annotated by Miksanek, Tony
Date of Entry 01/26/05
Last Revised 01/31/05