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The novel Blindness depicts an imploding social order as an epidemic scourges society; delineating the oppression of people in a totalitarian style world. Abandoning morality, a city is reduced to savagery by the mysterious plague of sightlessness. Saramago creates a totalitarian state mirroring that of the context in which he lived; in a centralised dictatorial system requiring complete subservience to the state. In the portrayal of this merciless consequence of the epidemic, Saramago presents the dehumanization of the lower class by a strict oppressive government.

Saramago illustrates a society functioning in a system opposite to Marxist ideals to depict the mercilessness of a tyrannical government. During their time spent in the asylum, a leader is elected among the internees, and followers fall behind, creating an apparent autocracy instead of equality among all men. When this inequitable order is formed within the asylum it becomes a reflection of how people are treated under the government – with no influence over their fate. It causes immense trouble for those allocated as ‘lower citizens’, magnifying the problems of the outside world. Implicitly, it also highlights human resilience in the face of capitalism. Somehow in disorder, a class system is activated social standards are applied, a hierarchy is put in place and people are forced to operate under strict control; submissive to those in power. Further disapproving of Marx’s ideas, the individuals subject to blindness are dehumanized by brutal authority. A regimental commander in the novel explains that “the rabies of a dog is cured by nature”. He desires to let the sufferers die, to let “nature” decide their fate. Saramago sculpts a pitiless tyrant with no moral obligation. The noun “rabies” insinuates that the commander believes these human beings should be treated as worthless animals – mere “dogs” spreading a contagious disease that should be left to “nature” to deteriorate in isolation. As a result of this torment, the individuals in the asylum have been reduced to their basic instincts, pushed to the edge of humanity like animals, and abandoned in squalid conditions. This character becomes the embodiment of an egocentric authoritative figure, abusing the power handed to him, much like those which the author was familiar with from his own life. Saramago was similarly objectified as part of a lower class; the struggles he depicts between those who oppress and those who are oppressed magnifies the view that “Capitalism turns people into things… seeing them as objects rather than human beings”, contrasting against Marxist ideals.

The form of the novel Blindness has no definite structure, symbolizing the character’s lack of influence under a tyrannical government. With no chapters, paragraphs, or speech marks and limited punctuation, the disordered structure highlights an absence of stability under a ruthless authority. It is also crafted to force the reader to become absorbed in the text and its meaning as they reread passages to fully comprehend its complexity.

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The reader will become extremely engaged in the novel, almost as an additional character, experiencing the horrifying events in a similar way to the protagonist of the novel. In witnessing the turmoil, the doctor’s wife bluntly states that they are “Blind people who can see, but do not see.”. It is not that they are living without vision but without appreciating the point of living. Powerless to the oppression of the government, they had become unable to see how complicated and fragile society is. Saramago is conveying the vulnerability he would have felt growing up under a strict capitalist regime. The disorganized structure is effective in portraying a lack of security the internees would have felt under the control of the government. Its irregular and disorienting form reflects the political disorganization in which they are living. Moreover, the absence of quotation marks blurs the lines of ownership, proposing that all thoughts in the novel belong to humanity as a whole. This indicates that Saramago is not solely exploring the affliction that an individual faces but the distress of an entire society under a despotic regime.

A struggle between classes permeates throughout the novel as Saramago explores a protesting ‘lower class’ from inside the asylum. The government attempts to gain control over the internees, creating an explicit segregation between those infected by the disease and those left in control on the outside. After a merciless period of suppression, the ‘lower citizens’ refuse to let themselves be subdued any further by the “harsh” authority. Initially, they protest only against the rigid societal expectations set for them, as the doctor’s wife expresses “If we cannot live entirely like human beings, at least let us do everything in our power not to live entirely like animals.” She wishes for them all to grasp a glimpse of humanity by resisting a supposedly inevitable decline, anticipated by those whose sight remains. It should be argued that a fundamental aspect of humanity, separating us from animals, is basic cleanliness. Therefore, surrounded by societal decay and hygienic disaster, the doctor’s wife acknowledges the significance of resistance against their decline into anything less than human. Enhancing this severe distinction between the classes is the use of the loudspeaker. Saramago portrays this as the main form of communication in the asylum, where orders are barked at the internees; they have no chance to speak back. Reflecting the powerlessness of human beings under autocratic governments, individuals in the wards are not given a voice, they must simply obey the commands announced to them with no objections. “The word Attention was uttered three times” and continuously repeated, “Attention, attention…” leaving no time for their input. Much like Karl Marx, Saramago believed in equality among all men, and so illustrated a place in which human beings are tormented for their imperfections, to highlight his disapproval of the suppression of the poor. As the novel progresses, the protest against the dictators of the asylum is successful. This victory is only possible as the citizens realize that the rulers only gained power from their exploitation. As an author, Saramago’s values pervade through this novel; he conveys a strong desire for people to challenge restrictions put in place to oppress them and finally establish a “classless and stateless communist society”.

Saramago portrays an authoritarian state in his novel Blindness, where strict obedience to authority is enforced at the expense of personal freedom. With the influence of his own experience within a lower-class family, the author presents an accurate representation of the consequence of a ruthless autocratic authority.

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