Blindness – Summary & Ending Explained

Blindness by José Saramago is a haunting and visceral exploration of a society’s descent into chaos when an inexplicable epidemic of sudden and contagious blindness strikes. The narrative unfolds in a city where an unnamed government takes drastic measures to contain the outbreak, quarantining the affected individuals in an abandoned mental hospital.

The story’s protagonist, known simply as the Doctor, finds himself among the first to be afflicted by the sudden blindness. As the epidemic spreads, society crumbles, and the government resorts to increasingly oppressive measures to maintain control. The blind are left to fend for themselves, navigating a world plunged into darkness, where basic human instincts and morality are put to the test.

Amidst the chaos, a small group of characters forms, each representing a different facet of human nature. The Doctor’s wife, the Girl with the Dark Glasses, the Old Man with the Black Eye Patch, and others form a fragile community struggling to survive in an environment of increasing brutality and desperation.

The narrative is a powerful exploration of the fragility of civilization and the depths of human resilience and depravity. Saramago’s unique prose, characterized by long, flowing sentences and minimal punctuation, contributes to the immersive and disorienting atmosphere of the novel. “Blindness” is a stark reflection on societal breakdown, human vulnerability, and the search for humanity in the face of overwhelming darkness.


The Doctor: The central character and narrator, the Doctor starts as a detached and clinical observer of the epidemic. As the story progresses, he undergoes a profound transformation, experiencing the loss of his own humanity and grappling with the ethical challenges posed by the collapse of society.

The Doctor’s Wife: A resilient and compassionate woman who stands as a beacon of hope in the face of adversity. Her determination to preserve a sense of humanity and morality in the midst of chaos makes her a compelling and complex character.

The Girl with the Dark Glasses: Initially seen as vulnerable due to her blindness, she becomes a symbol of strength and resilience. Her unwavering spirit and emotional resilience make her a crucial figure in the group.

The Old Man with the Black Eye Patch: A former king of the underworld, the Old Man is a complex character who shifts between moments of vulnerability and cunning. His presence adds an element of unpredictability to the group dynamic.

The Thug: A menacing figure who seizes power within the quarantined group, embodying the darker aspects of human nature when societal structures collapse. His actions and choices contribute to the novel’s exploration of the loss of morality in extreme circumstances.

Saramago’s characters are intricately woven into the fabric of the narrative, each serving as a lens through which the author examines different facets of human nature. The character dynamics and their evolving relationships provide a nuanced portrayal of the human condition under duress.

Blindness Ending Explained

Note: Spoiler Alert

The novel’s conclusion, though open to interpretation, leaves the reader with a glimmer of hope amidst the prevailing darkness. The group of survivors, led by the Doctor’s Wife, emerges from the quarantine to discover a changed world. The blindness epidemic, which had gripped society in an oppressive shroud, begins to recede.

The newfound ability to see returns gradually, signifying a metaphorical rebirth and the potential for a fresh start. The characters, having endured unimaginable horrors and confronted the depths of human depravity, now face the daunting task of rebuilding a shattered world.

The significance of the ending lies in the resilience of the human spirit. Saramago suggests that even in the face of overwhelming darkness and moral decay, there is the potential for redemption and renewal. The survivors, having experienced the worst of humanity, carry with them the collective memory of the blindness epidemic and the imperative to forge a more compassionate and just society.

The open-ended nature of the conclusion invites readers to reflect on the possibilities for a better future. While the scars of the past remain, the novel concludes with a sense of cautious optimism—a recognition that, despite the profound flaws of human nature, there exists the potential for growth, transformation, and the emergence of a more enlightened society.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It based on a true story? No, “Blindness” is a work of fiction and not based on a true story. José Saramago crafted the novel as a powerful allegory, using the premise of sudden and contagious blindness to explore the complexities of human nature, societal breakdown, and the struggle for resilience in the face of adversity. The novel serves as a thought-provoking and symbolic narrative rather than a depiction of historical events.

What is the main idea of the book? The main idea of “Blindness” revolves around the exploration of the fragility of civilization, the depths of human resilience, and the potential for moral decay in extreme circumstances. Saramago uses the metaphor of sudden blindness to delve into the darker aspects of human nature and the impact of societal breakdown on individual and collective morality. The novel serves as a stark reflection on the fragility of societal structures and the search for humanity in the face of overwhelming darkness.

Is this book worth reading? Absolutely. “Blindness” is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that delves into profound philosophical and existential questions. Saramago’s unique narrative style and exploration of human nature make it a compelling and challenging read. The novel’s allegorical nature allows for multiple layers of interpretation, making it a rewarding experience for those who appreciate literature that prompts reflection on the complexities of the human condition.

What is the symbolism in this book? Symbolism in “Blindness” is pervasive, with blindness itself serving as a metaphor for moral and societal decay. The sudden loss of vision becomes a powerful symbol for the inability to see and comprehend the consequences of one’s actions. The quarantine, the breakdown of social structures, and the return of sight all contribute to the novel’s layered symbolism, inviting readers to engage in a contemplative exploration of its themes.

Can you recommend me any other interesting books of this author? Certainly. If you appreciate Saramago’s narrative style and thematic depth, “Seeing,” a companion novel to “Blindness,” is a compelling choice. In “Seeing,” Saramago explores the consequences of citizens casting blank votes in an election, leading to a political crisis. The novel continues Saramago’s exploration of societal dynamics and the consequences of collective actions.

Can you recommend me other interesting books in the similar genre? If you are drawn to dystopian literature that explores the complexities of human nature, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a seminal work in the genre. Atwood’s novel imagines a future society where fundamentalist ideology and the subjugation of women shape the dystopian landscape. Additionally, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is a stark exploration of a post-apocalyptic world and the enduring bond between a father and son. Both works share thematic resonances with “Blindness” in their examination of societal breakdown and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.