The Country of the Blind presents two interwoven themes: A critique of the arrogant colonial practices of 19th century Europeans and a social comment on the Victorian attitude to disability. Both themes highlight the transition from one world of experience to another which would have been unsettling for the Victorian reader.
The first, demonstrates the European proclivity for judging other cultures in terms of the skills, knowledge and attributes that they consider necessary for a successful existence. Finding the other lacking, they assume superiority and assert that the other must be inferior and changed for its own good. When Nunez enters the village as a conqueror, he confidently expects the afflicted people to bow before his self-evident superiority. However, instead he is “a clumsy and useless stranger among his subjects” (Wells: 134). The second is a social comment on the Victorian attitude to disability. It shows that disability is only a disadvantage when the environment is designed by the disablers who again assume that they are superior and that the disabled are flawed. “his brain is in a state of constant irritation and destruction” (Wells: 142).
The story must have been uncomfortable reading for the early 20th century audience. It offers a horrible, nightmarish sense of what it feels like to be the victims of the colonial attitude or have a disability and be at the mercy of the disablers. The disadvantage of blindness could be replaced by ignorance, cultural difference, skin colour or social class. Wells does not offer an alternative to the Imperial view.He does not permit the possibility that Nunez could have learned the ways of the sightless and understood their particular version of wisdom or that they could have found a use for his particular talents. The sightless community are obdurate and Nunez is forced to run away or face radical mutilation ”to remove these irritant bodies…then he will be…a quite admirable citizen” (Wells: 143).
Wells H.G. The Country of the Blind and Other Stories ebooks@Adelaide
Image: http://endlessbookshelf.net/archive0312.html. H. G. Wells. The Country of the Blind and Other Stories. Thomas Nelson and Sons, .