Picture of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan

Is Literature Against Us?

by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan

Copyright © 1974
National Federation of the Blind

          History, we are told, is the record of what human beings have done ; literature, the record of what they have thought . Last year I examined with you the place of the blind in history not just what we have done but what the historians have remembered and said we have done. The two, as we found, are vastly different.

          This year I would like to talk with you about the place of the blind in literature. How have we been perceived? What has been our role? How have the poets and novelists, the essayists and dramatists seen us? Have they told it like it is, or merely liked it as they've told it?

          With history there is at least a supposed foundation of fact. Whatever the twisting or omission or misinterpretation or downright falsehood, that foundation presumably remains a tether and a touchstone, always subject to reexamination and new proof. Not so with literature. The author is free to cut through facts to the essence, to dream and soar and surmise. Going deeper than history, the myths and feelings of a people are enshrined in its literature. Literary culture in all its forms constitutes possibly the main transmission belt of our society's beliefs and values more important even than the schools, the churches, the news media, or the family. How, then, have we fared in literature?

          The literary record reveals no single theme or unitary view of the life of the blind. Instead, it displays a bewildering variety of images often conflicting and contradictory, not only as between different ages or cultures, or among the works of various writers, but even within the pages of a single book.

          Yet, upon closer examination the principal themes and motifs of literature and popular culture are nine in number and may be summarized as follows: blindness as compensatory or miraculous power; blindness as total tragedy; blindness as foolishness and helplessness; blindness as unrelieved wickedness and evil; blindness as perfect virtue; blindness as punishment for sin; blindness as abnormality or dehumanization; blindness as purification; and blindness as symbol or parable.

          Let us begin with blindness and compensatory powers. Suppose one of you should ask me whether I think there is any advantage in being blind; and suppose I should answer like this: Not an advantage perhaps: still it has compensations that one might not think of. A new world to explore, new experiences, new powers awakening; strange new perceptions; life in the fourth dimension. 1 How would you react to that? You would, I suspect, laugh me out of the room. I doubt that a single person here would buy such stereotyped stupidity. You and I know from firsthand experience that there is no fourth dimension to blindness no miraculous new powers awakening, no strange new perceptions, no brave new worlds to explore. Yet, the words I have quoted are those of a blind character in a popular novel of some time back. (I don't know whether the term has significance, but a blind private eye, no less.)

          The association of blindness with compensatory powers, illustrated by the blind detective I have just mentioned, represents a venerable tradition, reaching back to classical mythology. A favorite method of punishment among the gods of ancient Greece was blinding regarded apparently as a fate worse than death following which, more often than not, the gods so pitied the blinded victim that they relented and conferred upon him extraordinary gifts, usually the power of prophecy or some other exceptional skill. Thus, Homer was widely regarded as having been compensated by the gift of poetry. In the same way Tiresias, who wandered through the plays of Sophocles, received for his blindness the gift of prophecy.

          The theme of divine compensation following divine retribution survived the passage of the ages and the decline of the pagan religions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (one of the most eminent novelists of the last century, and the creator of Sherlock Holmes) conjured up a blind character with something of Holmes' sleuthing talents, in a book entitled Sir Nigel . This figure is introduced as one who has the mysterious ability to detect by hearing a hidden tunnel, which runs beneath the besieged castle. His compensatory powers are described in a conversation between two other people in the novel:

          This man was once rich and of good repute [says one], but he was beggared by this robber lord who afterwards put out his eyes, so that he has lived for many years in darkness at the charity of others.

          How can he help in our enterprise if he be indeed blind? [asks his companion.]

          It is for that very reason, fair Lord, that he can be of greater service than any other man. For it often happens that when a man has lost a sense, the good God will strengthen those that remain. Hence it is that Andreas has such ears that he can hear the sap in the trees or the cheep of the mouse in its burrow. 2

          The great nineteenth-century novelist Victor Hugo, in The Man Who Laughs , reflected the view of a host of modern writers that blindness carries with it a certain purity and ecstasy, which somehow makes up for the loss of sight. His blind heroine, Dea, is portrayed as absorbed by that kind of ecstasy peculiar to the blind, which seems at times to give them a song to listen to in their souls and to make up to them for the light which they lack by some strain of ideal music. Blindness, says Hugo, is a cavern to which reaches the deep harmony of the Eternal. 3

          Probably it is this mystical notion of a sixth sense accompanying blindness that accounts for the rash of blind detectives and investigators in popular fiction. Max Carrados, the man who talked of living in the fourth dimension, first appeared in 1914 and went on to survive a number of superhuman escapades through the nineteen twenties. In 1915 came another sightless sleuth the remarkable Damon Gaunt, who never lost a case. 4 So it is with Thornley Colton, Blind Detective, the brainchild of Clinton H. Stagg; and so it is with the most illustrious of all the private eyes without eyes, Captain Duncan Maclain, whose special qualities are set forth in the deathless prose of a dust jacket: Shooting to kill by sound, playing chess with fantastic precision, and, of course, quickening the hearts of the opposite sex, Captain Maclain has won the unreserved admiration of reviewers. 5

          Even the author is carried away with the genius of his hero: There were moments, he writes, when powers slightly greater than those possessed by ordinary mortals seemed bestowed on Duncan Maclain. Such moments worried him. 6

          They might worry us, as well; for all of this mumbo jumbo about abnormal or supernatural powers doesn't lessen the stereotype of the blind person as alien and different, unnatural and peculiar. It makes it worse.

          Not only is it untrue, but it is also a profound disservice to the blind; for it suggests that whatever a blind person may accomplish is not due to his own ability but to some magic inherent in blindness itself. This assumption of compensatory powers removes the blind person at a stroke of the pen from the realm of the normal the ordinary, everyday world of plain people and places him in a limbo of abnormality. Whether supernormal or subnormal does not matter he is without responsibility, without rights, and without society. We have been conned into this view of second-class status long enough. The play is over. We want no more of magic powers and compensations. We want our rights as citizens and human beings and we intend to have them!

          It is significant that, for all his supposed charm and talent, Maclain never gets the girl or any girl. The author plainly regards him as ineligible for such normal human relationships as love, sex, and marriage. Max Carrados put it this way in replying to an acquaintance who expressed great comfort in his presence: Blindness invites confidence, he says. We are out of the running for us human rivalry ceases to exist. 7

          This notion of compensatory powers the doctrine that blindness is its own reward is no compliment but an insult. It robs us of all credit for our achievements and all responsibility for our failings. It neatly relieves society of any obligation to equalize conditions or provide opportunities or help us help ourselves. It leaves us in the end without the capacity to lead a regular, competitive, and participating life in the community around us. The blind, in short, may (according to this view) be extraordinary, but we can never be ordinary. Don't you believe it! We are normal people neither especially blessed nor especially cursed and the fiction to the contrary must come to an end! It is not mumbo jumbo we want, or magical powers but our rights as free people, our responsibilities as citizens, and our dignity as human beings.

          Negative as it is, this image of compensatory powers is less vicious and destructive than some others which run through the literature of fiction and fantasy. The most damaging of all is also the oldest and most persistent: namely, the theme of blindness as total tragedy, the image summed up in the ancient Hebrew saying, The blind man is as one dead. The Oedipus cycle of Greek tragic plays pressed the death-in-life stereotype to its farthest extreme. Thus, in Oedipus Rex , in which the king puts out his own eyes, the statement occurs: Thou art better off dead than living blind. It remained, however, for an Englishman, blind himself, to write the last word (what today would be called the bottom line ) on blindness as total disaster. John Milton says in Samson Agonistes:

          Blind among enemies, O worse than chains, Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age! Inferior to the vilest now become Of man or worm; the vilest here excel me, They creep, yet see; I, dark in light, exposed To daily fraud, contempt, abuse, and wrong, Within doors, or without, still as a fool, In power of others, never in my own; Scarce half I seem to live, Dead more than half. a moving grave, 8

          What is most striking about this epic poem is not the presence of the disaster concept (that might have been expected) but the fact that Milton of all people was the author. His greatest writing (including Paradise Lost ) was done after his blindness. Then why did he do it? The answer is simple: We the blind tend to see ourselves as others see us. Even when we know to the contrary, we tend to accept the public view of our limitations. Thus, we help make those limitations a reality. Betrayed by the forces of literature and tradition, Milton (in his turn) betrayed himself and all others who are blind. In fact, he actually strengthened and reinforced the stereotype and he did it in spite of his own personal experience to the contrary. The force of literature is strong, indeed!

          The disaster concept of blindness did not stop with Milton. William Tell, the eighteenth-century play by Schiller, shows us an old man, blinded and forced to become a beggar. His son says:

          Oh, the eye's light, of all the gifts of Heaven the dearest, best! And he must drag on through all his days in endless darkness! To die is nothing. But to have life, and not have sight Oh, that is misery indeed! 9

          A century later the disaster concept was as popular as ever. In Kipling's book, The Light That Failed , no opportunity is lost to tell us that blindness is worse than death. The hero, Dick Heldar, upon learning that he is to become blind, remarks: It's the living death. We're to be shut up in the dark and we shan't see anybody, and we shall never have anything we want, not though we live to be a hundred. 10 Later in the book, he rages against the whole world because it was alive and could see, while he, Dick, was dead in the death of the blind, who, at the best, are only burdens upon their associates. 11 And when this self-pitying character finally manages to get himself killed (to the relief of all concerned), the best Kipling can say of him is that his luck had held till the last, even to the crowning mercy of a kindly bullet through his head. 12

          Joseph Conrad, in The End of the Tether , kills off Captain Whalley by drowning, as a fate much preferable to remaining alive without sight. In D.H. Lawrence's The Blind Man , there is a war-blinded casualty named Maurice, whose total despair and misery are unrelieved by any hint of future hope; and Rosamond Lehmann, in her novel Invitation to the Waltz , goes Lawrence one better or, rather, one worse. Her war-blinded hero, although he appears to be living a respectable life, is portrayed as if for all practical purposes he were a walking corpse. He leads, we are told, a counterfeit of life bred from his murdered youth. And when he brings himself somehow to dance with a former sweetheart, it is a sorry spectacle: She danced with him, says the author, in love and sorrow. He held her close to him, and he was far away from her, far from the music, buried and indifferent. She danced with his youth and his death. 13

          For writers such as these, the supposed tragedy of blindness is so unbearable that only two solutions can be imagined: either the victim must be cured or he must be killed. A typical illustration is Susan Glaspell's The Glory of the Conquered , of which an unkind critic has written: It is a rather easy solution of the problem to make her hero die at the end of the book, but probably the author did not know what else to do with him. 14

          Let us now leave tragedy and move to foolishness and helplessness. The blind man as a figure of fun and the butt of ridicule is no doubt as old as farce and slapstick. In the Middle Ages the role was regularly acted out on festive holidays when blind beggars were rounded up and outfitted in donkey's ears, than made to gibber and gesticulate to the delight of country bumpkins. Reflecting this general hilarity, Chaucer (in The Merchant's Tale ) presents a young wife, married to an old blind man, who deceives him by meeting her lover in a tree while taking the husband for a walk. The Chaucerian twist is that the old man suddenly regains his sight as the couple are making love in the branches whereupon the quick-witted girl explains that her amorous behavior was solely for the purpose of restoring his sight. Shakespeare is just as bad. He makes the blinded Gloucester in King Lear so thoroughly confused and helpless that he can be persuaded of anything and deceived by any trick. Isaac, in the Old Testament, is duped by his son Jacob, who masquerades as Esau, disguising himself in goatskins, and substituting kid meat for the venison his father craves all without a glimmer of recognition on the part of the old man, who must have taken leave of the rest of his senses as well as his sense of sight.

          An unusually harsh example of the duping of blind people is found in the sixteenth-century play Der Eulenspiegel mit den Blinden . The hero meets three blind beggars and promises them a valuable coin to pay for their food and lodging at a nearby inn; but when they all reach out for the money, he gives it to none of them, and each supposes that the others have received it. You can imagine the so-called funny ending. After they go to the inn and dine lavishly, the innkeeper demands his payment; and each of the blind beggars thereupon accuses the others of lying, thievery, and assorted crimes. The innkeeper shouting You people defraud everyone! drives the three into his pigsty and locks the gate, lamenting to his wife: What shall we do with them, let them go without punishment after they have eaten and drunk so much, for nothing? But if we keep them, they will spread lice and fleas and we will have to feed them. I wish they were on the gallows. 15 The play has a happy ending, but what an image persists of the character of those who are blind: criminal and corrupt, contagious and contaminated, confounded and confused, wandering homeless and helpless in an alien landscape. Their book of life might well be called Gullible's Travels.

          The helpless blind man is a universal stereotype. In Maeterlinck's play, The Blind , all of the characters are portrayed as sightless in order to make a philosophical point; but what emerges on the stage is a ridiculous tableau of groping, groaning, and grasping at the air.

          One of the very worst offenders against the truth about blindness is the eminent French author of our own day, Andre Gide, in La Symphonie Pastorale . A blind reviewer of the novel has described it well: The girl Gertrude at fifteen, before the pastor begins to educate her, has all the signs of an outright idiot. This is explained simply as the result of her blindness. [Gide] asserts that without physical sight one cannot really know the truth. Gertrude lives happily in the good, pure world the pastor creates for her. Gertrude knows next to nothing about the evil and pain in the actual world. As a sightless person she cannot consciously know sin, is blissfully ignorant, like Adam and Eve before eating of the forbidden fruit. Only when her sight is restored does she really know evil for what it is and recognize sin. Then, on account of the sinning she has done with the pastor without knowing it was sinning, she is miserable and commits suicide. 16

          In literature not only is blindness depicted as stupidity but also as wickedness, the very incarnation of pure evil. The best-known model is the old pirate Blind Pew, in Stevenson's Treasure Island . When the young hero, Jim Hawkins, first encounters Pew, he feels that he never saw a more dreadful figure than this horrible, soft-spoken, eyeless creature ; and when Pew gets the boy in his clutches, Jim observes that he never heard a voice so cruel, and cold, and ugly as that blind man's. 17

          A much earlier version of the wicked blind man theme is seen in the picaresque romance of the sixteenth century, Lazarillo de - Tormes . Lazarillo is apprenticed as a guide to an old blind man, who is the very personification of evil. When the blind man told the boy to put his ear to a statue and listen for a peculiar noise, Lazarillo obeyed. Then the old man knocked the boy's head sharply against the stone, so his ears rang for three days. 18

          Throughout the ages the connection between blindness and meanness has been very nearly irresistible to authors, and it has struck a responsive note with audiences audiences already conditioned through folklore and fable to believe that blindness brings out the worst in people. Given the casual cruelty with which the blind have generally been treated, such villainous caricatures have also provided a convenient excuse and justification. After zall, if the blind are rascals and rapscallions, they should be handled accordingly and no pity wasted.

          Alternating with the theme of blindness as perfect evil is its exact reverse: the theme of blindness as perfect virtue. On the surface these two popular stereotypes appear to be contradictory; but it takes no great psychological insight to recognize them as opposite sides of the same counterfeit coin. What they have in common is the notion that blindness is a transforming event, entirely removing the victim from the ordinary dimensions of life and humanity.

          Blindness must either be the product of sin and the devil or of angels and halos. Of the latter type is Melody, in Laura Richards' novel of the same name: The Blind Child, we are told, touched life with her hand, and knew it. She knew every tree of the forest by its bark; knew when it blossomed, and how. Not a cat or dog in the village but would leave his own master or mistress at a single call from Melody. 19 She is not merely virtuous; she is magical. She rescues a baby from a burning building, cures the sick by her singing, and redeems alcoholics from the curse of drink.

          It is passing strange, and what is strangest of all is that this absurd creature is the invention of Laura Richards, the daughter of Samuel Gridley Howe, a pioneer educator of the blind. Like Milton, Mrs. Richards knew better. She was betrayed by the forces of tradition and custom, of folklore and literature. In turn she betrayed herself and the blind, and gave reinforcement to the stereotype. Worst of all, she doubtless never knew what she had done, and thought of herself as a benefactor of the blind and a champion of their cause. Ignorance is truly the greatest of all tragedies.

          The sickest of all the romantic illusions is the pious opinion that blindness is only a blessing in disguise. In The Blind Girl of Wittenberg , by John G. Morris, a young man says to the heroine: God has deprived you of sight but only that your heart might be illuminated with more brilliant light. Every blind girl I know would have slapped his face for such insulting drivel; but the reply of this fictional female is worse than the original remark: Do you not think, sir, she says, that we blind people have a world within us which is perhaps more beautiful than yours, and that we have a light within us which shines more brilliantly than your sun? 20

          So it goes with the saccharine sweet that has robbed us of humanity and made the legend and hurt our cause. There is Caleb, the little blind seer of James Ludlow's awful novel, Deborah . There is Bertha, Dickens's ineffably sweet and noble blind heroine of The Cricket on the Hearth , who comes off almost as an imbecile. There is the self-sacrificing Nydia, in The Last Days of Pompeii ; and there is Naomi, in Hall Caine's novel, Scapegoat . But enough! It is sweetness without light, and literature without enlightenment.

          One of the oldest and cruelest themes in the archives of fiction is the notion of blindness as a punishment for sin. Thus, Oedipus was blinded as a punishment for incest, and Shakespeare's Gloucester for adultery. The theme often goes hand in hand with the stereotype of blindness as a kind of purification rite an act which wipes the slate clean and transforms human character into purity and goodness. So Amyas Leigh, in Kingsley's Westward Ho, having been blinded by a stroke of lightning, is instantly converted from a crook to a saint.

          Running like an ugly stain through many of these master plots and, perhaps, in a subtle way underlying all of them is the image of blindness as dehumanization , a kind of banishment from the world of normal life and relationships. Neither Dickens's blind Bertha, nor Bulwer-Lytton's Nydia, when they find themselves in love, have the slightest idea that anybody could ever love them back nor does the reader; nor, for that matter, do the other characters in the novels. Kipling, in a story entitled They, tells of a charming and apparently competent blind woman, Miss Florence, who loves children but of course cannot have any of her own. Kipling doesn't say why she can't, but it's plain that she is unable to imagine a blind person either married or raising children. Miss Florence, however, is magically compensated. She is surrounded on her estate by the ghosts of little children who have died in the neighborhood and have thereupon rushed to her in spirit. We are not meant to infer that she is as crazy as a hoot owl only that she is blind , and therefore entitled to her spooky fantasies.

          The last of the popular literary themes is that which deals with blindness not literally but symbolically, for purposes of satire or parable. From folklore to film the image recurs of blindness as a form of death or damnation, or as a symbol of other kinds of unseeing (as in the maxim, where there is no vision, the people perish). In this category would come H.G. Well's classic The Country of the Blind ; also, The Planet of the Blind , by Paul Corey; and Maeterlinck's The Blind . In the short story by Conrad Aiken, Silent Snow, Secret Snow, blindness becomes a metaphor for schizophrenia.

          In virtually all of these symbolic treatments, there is an implied acceptance of blindness as a state of ignorance and confusion, of the inversion of normal perceptions and values, and of a condition equal to if not worse than death. The havoc wrought upon the lives of blind people in ages past by these literary traditions is done, and it cannot be undone; but the future is yet to be determined. And that future, shaped by the instrument of truth, will be determined by us. Self-aware and self-reliant neither unreasonably belligerent nor unduly self-effacing we must, in a matter-of- fact way, take up the challenge of determining our own destiny. We know who we are; we know what we can do; and we know how to act in concert.

          And what can we learn from this study of literature? What does it all mean? For one thing, it places in totally new perspective the pronouncements and writings of many of the so-called experts who today hold forth in the field of work with the blind. They tell us (these would-be professionals, these hirelings of the American Foundation for the Blind and HEW, these pseudoscientists with their government grants and lofty titles and impressive papers) that blindness is not just the loss of sight, but a total transformation of the person. They tell us that blindness is not merely a loss to the eyes, but to the personality as well that it is a death, a blow to the very being of the individual. They tell us that the eye is a sex symbol, and that the blind person cannot be a whole man or, for that matter, presumably a whole woman either. They tell us that we have multiple lacks and losses. 21

          The American Foundation for the Blind devises a 239-page guidebook22 for our personal management, with sixteen steps to help us take a bath, and specific techniques for clapping our hands and shaking our heads. We are given detailed instructions for buttering our bread, tying our shoes, and even understanding the meaning of the words up and down. And all of this is done with federal grants, and much insistence that it is new discovery and modern thought.

          But our study of literature gives it the lie. These are not new concepts. They are as unenlightened as the Middle Ages. They are as old as Oedipus Rex. As for science, they have about as much of it as man's ancient fear of the dark. They are not fact, but fiction; not new truths, but medieval witchcraft, decked out in modern garb computerized mythology. What we have bought with our federal tax dollars and our technology and our numerous government grants is only a restatement of the tired old fables of primitive astrology and dread of the night.

          And let us not forget NAC (The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). When the members of NAC and its accredited minions try to act as our custodians and wardens, they are only behaving in the time honored way of the Elizabethan keepers of the poor. When they seek to deck us out in donkey's ears and try to make us gibber and gesticulate, they are only attempting what the country bumpkins of 600 years ago did with better grace and more efficiency.

          We have repudiated these false myths of our inferiority and helplessness. We have rejected the notion of magical powers and special innocence and naivete. Those who would try to compel us to live in the past would do well to look to their going. Once people have tasted freedom, they cannot go back. We will never again return to the ward status and second- class citizenship of the old custodialism. There are many of us (sighted and blind alike) who will take to the streets and fight with our bare hands if we must before we will let it happen.

          And we must never forget the power of literature. Revolutions do not begin in the streets, but in the libraries and the classrooms. It has been so throughout history. In the terrible battles of the American Civil War, for example, the writers and poets fought, too. When the Southern armies came to Bull Run, they brought with them Sir Walter Scott and the image of life he had taught them to believe. Ivanhoe and brave King Richard stood in the lines with Stonewall Jackson to hurl the Yankees back. The War would have ended sooner except for the dreams of the poets. And when the Northern troops went down to Richmond, through the bloody miles that barred the way, they carried with them The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was Uncle Tom and little Eliza who fired the shots and led the charges that broke the Southern lines. Never mind that neither Scott nor Stowe told it exactly as it was. What they said was believed, and believing made it come true.

          To the question Is literature against us? there can be no unqualified response. If we consider only the past, the answer is certainly yes. We have had a bad press. Conventional fiction, like conventional history, has told it like it isn't. Although there have been notable exceptions,23 the story has been monotonously and negatively the same.

          If we consider the present, the answer is mixed. There are signs of change, but the old stereotypes and the false images still predominate and they are reinforced and given weight by the writings and beliefs of many of the experts in our own field of work with the blind.

          If we turn to the future, the answer is that the future in literature as in life is not predetermined but self-determined. As we shape our lives, singly and collectively, so will we shape our literature. Blindness will be a tragedy only if we see ourselves as authors see us. The contents of the page, in the last analysis, reflect the conscience of the age. The structure of literature is but a hall of mirrors, giving us back (in images slightly larger or smaller than life) exactly what we put in. The challenge for us is to help our age raise its consciousness and reform its conscience. We must rid our fiction of fantasy and imbue it with fact. Then we shall have a literature to match reality, and a popular image of blindness to match the truth, and our image of ourselves.

          Poetry is the song of the spirit and the language of the soul. In the drama of our struggle to be free in the story of our movement and the fight to rid the blind of old custodialism and man's ancient fear of the dark there are epics which cry to be written, and songs which ask to be sung. The poets and novelists can write the words, but we must create the music.

          We stand at a critical time in the history of the blind. If we falter or turn back, the tragedy of blindness will be great, indeed. But, of course, we will not falter, and we will not turn back. Instead, we will go forward with joy in our hearts and a song of gladness on our lips. The future is ours, and the novelists and the poets will record it. Come! Join me on the barricades, and we will make it come true!


  1. Ernest Bramah, Best Max Carrados Detective Stories, p. 6.

  2. Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Nigel, p. 102.

  3. Victor Hugo, The Man Who Laughs, p. 316.

  4. Isabel Ostrander, At One-Thirty: A Mystery, p. 6.

  5. Baynard Kendrick, Make Mine Maclain, dust jacket.

  6. Ibid., p. 43.

  7. Bramah, op. cit., p. 7.

  8. John Milton, The Portable Milton, pp. 615-616.

  9. Friedrich Schiller, Complete Works of Friedrich Schiller, p. 447.

  10. Rudyard Kipling, Selected Prose and Poetry of Rudyard - Kipling, p. 131.

  11. Ibid., p. 156.

  12. Ibid., p. 185.

  13. Rosamond Lehmann, Invitation to the Waltz, p. 48, quoted in Jacob Twersky, Blindness in Literature.

  14. Jessica L. Langworthy, Blindness in Fiction: A Study of the Attitude of Authors Towards Their Blind Characters, Journal of Applied Psychology, 14:282, 1930.

  15. Twersky, op. cit., p. 15.

  16. Ibid., p. 47

  17. Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, p. 36.

  18. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, summarized in Magill's Masterplots, p. 2573.

  19. Laura E. Richards, Melody, pp. 47-48.

  20. John G. Morris, The Blind Girl of Wittenberg, p. 103.

  21. Reverend Thomas J. Carroll, Blindness: What It Is, What It Does, and How to Live With It. This entire book deals with the concept of blindness as a dying, and with the multiple lacks and losses of blindness.

  22. American Foundation for the Blind, Inc., A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Management for Blind People. This entire book is taken up with lists of so-called how to details about the routines of daily living for blind persons.

  23. There is a tenth theme to be found here and there on the shelves of literature a rare and fugitive image that stands out in the literary gloom like a light at the end of a tunnel. This image of truth is at least as old as Charles Lamb's tale of Rosamund Gray, which presents an elderly blind woman who is not only normally competent but normally cantankerous. The image is prominent in two of Sir Walter Scott's novels, Old Mortality and The Bride of Lammamoor, in both of which blind persons are depicted realistically and unsentimentally. It is evident again, to the extent at least of the author's knowledge and ability, in Wilkie Collins's Poor Miss Finch, written after Collins had made a serious study of Diderot's Letter on the Blind (a scientific treatise not without its errors but remarkable for its understanding). The image is manifest in Charles D. Stewart's Valley Waters, in which there is an important character who is blind and yet there is about him no aura of miracle nor even of mystery, no brooding or mischief, no special powers, nothing in fact but naturalness and normality. Similarly, in a novel entitled Far in the Forest, H. Weir Mitchell has drawn from life (so he tells us) a formidable but entirely recognizable character named Philetus Richmond who had lost his sight at the age of fifty but could still swing an axe with the best of the woodsmen.


American Foundation for the Blind, Inc., A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Management for Blind People, New York, 1970.

Barreyre, Gene, The Blind Ship, New York, Dial, 1926.

Bramah, Ernest, Best Max Carrados Detective Stories, New York, Dover, 1972.

Bronte, Charlotte, Jane Eyre, New York, Dutton, 1963.

Caine, Hall, The Scapegoat, New York, D. Appleton and Company, 1879.

Carroll, Reverend Thomas J., Blindness: What It Is, What It Does, and How To Live With It, Boston, Toronto, Little, Brown and Company, 1961.

Chaucer, Geoffrey, Canterbury Tales, Garden City, translated by J.U. Nicolson, 1936.

Collins, Wilkie, Poor Miss Finch, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1902.

Conrad, Joseph, The End of the Tether, Garden City, Doubleday, 1951.

Corey, Paul, The Planet of the Blind, New York, Paperback Library, 1969.

Craig, Dinah Mulock, John Halifax, Gentleman, New York, A.L. Burt, nd.

Davis, William Sterns, Falaise of the Blessed Voice, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1904.

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Lamb, Charles, The Tale of Rosamund Gray and Old Blind Margaret, London, 1798.

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Marryat, Frederick, The Little Savage, New York, E.P. Dutton and Company, 1907.

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