Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on José Saramago's Blindness. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
Blindness: Plot Summary
Blindness: Detailed Summary & Analysis
Blindness: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of José Saramago
Historical Context of Blindness
Other Books Related to Blindness
- Full Title: Ensaio sobre a Cegueira (Essay on Blindness)
- When Written: 1992–1995
- Where Written: Lisbon, Portugal and Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
- When Published: 1995 (English translation: 1997)
- Literary Period: Contemporary Portuguese Literature
- Genre: Philosophical Novel
- Setting: An unnamed city, primarily in an abandoned mental hospital
- Climax: The doctor’s wife kills the thugs’ leader; the hospital burns down; the blind patients regain their sight
- Antagonist: The mysterious blindness; the Government; the soldiers; the thugs; the struggle for survival
- Point of View: Third Person
Extra Credit for Blindness
Tipsy Typo. José Saramago’s surname is not his family’s—rather, it was the result of an error on his birth certificate. As he explains it, Saramago, which is the Portuguese name of a kind of wild radish, “was an insulting nickname” for Saramago’s father in his village. But the village’s clerk, out of drunkenness or ill will, listed this as José’s surname on his birth certificate, in addition to incorrectly listing his birthdate two days too late.
Ableism Accusations. Saramago predominantly uses blindness as a metaphor for central problems in human psychology and society, and many critics from disability studies have suggested that this metaphor perpetuates harmful ideas about blind people, even if this was never Saramago’s intention. For instance, some have argued that Saramago’s depiction of blind people covered in their own filth in the quarantined mental hospital wrongly suggests that blind people are incapable of caring for themselves, or that his characters’ sense of despair when they are struck blind (and ecstasy when they regain their sight) puts forth the notion that blind people are somehow lacking in humanity or are inferior to sighted people.