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Maupassant's The Blind Man: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you will learn about Guy de Maupassant's short story, ~'The Blind Man~'. First, you will see a summary of the story followed by a discussion of the characters.

Maupassant's Story

In the last story you read, how many characters were there? Was there a specific narrator, or person telling the story? Every story has characters, but the details vary. For example, some stories never give names to the characters. One example of this is Guy de Maupassant's short story ''The Blind Man.''

This story opens with a description of a beautiful sunny day and the fact that blind people experience this kind of day differently because they cannot see it. This opening serves as an introduction to the central story by showing why the narrator is thinking about blind men in the first place. The narrator then tells us of one specific blind man, living out in the countryside in an unnamed location.

The Central Tale

The bulk of the story focuses on the tale of one blind man. He is born blind and cared for by his parents. After they die he is cared for by his sister and brother-in-law, but they give him barely enough food to survive. His family makes it clear that they hate him, and they and the other townspeople play cruel jokes on him. They put animals on the table to see if he will notice them drinking his soup, and they put garbage in his food.

These people hate him because they see him as completely useless. He cannot work, and yet they have to give him food and they resent him for that. Eventually, they move past tricks and into physical violence, hitting him whenever they see him.

The Ending

Later in the story, the blind man has to become a beggar and earn money to pay for his food. He is not successful because the only people around are peasants, who have no money to spare. One day during winter his brother-in-law takes him far out of town to beg by the side of the road, and the brother-in-law does not come back for him at the end of the day.

The blind man, of course, could not see to find his way home, and he could not feel the road because of thick ice. He wanders over the countryside trying to find shelter, but he is unable to. In the end, the blind man freezes to death, and his family is far more relieved than saddened by this.

The narrator ends the story by bringing it back full circle to the sunny day that first reminded him of the blind man's story. The narrator tells us that he ''...can never feel the glad radiance of sunlit days'' without being reminded of the blind man and his sad story.

Characters

The Narrator

The person telling this story is never named, and in fact, he does not seem to be personally related to the blind man in any way. We are never given a reason for the narrator to know this story. The first and last parts of the story are narrated in first person, as we can see by the narrator's use of 'I.'

The Blind Man

The protagonist, or main character of the story, is the blind man. He is the blind son of farmers, hated by his family and other members of his village because of his disability.

The Family

Several characters in the story are family members of the blind man, and they also remain unnamed. There are no named characters in this story. The blind man's parents are mentioned briefly to say that they took care of the blind man, but they did not like him. We see that the blind man ''...had never known any tenderness, his mother having always treated him unkindly and caring very little for him; for in country places useless persons are considered a nuisanceā€¦''

The blind man's sister and brother-in-law are also characters. The sister is barely mentioned, except that she is responsible for caring for the blind man. The brother-in-law is the one who instigates the cruel jokes and violence against the blind man, and the brother-in-law is ultimately responsible for the blind man's death. He is the main antagonist or person who is against the protagonist.

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