electronic eye for blind man
MacKinlay Kantor, A man who had no eyes
A beggar was coming from the avenue just as Mr. Parsons emerged from his hotel. He was a blind beggar, carrying the
traditional battered cane, and thumping his way before him with the cautious, half-
crook with a futile sort of clinging. He wore a black pouch slung over his shoulder. Apparently he had something to sell.
The air was rich with spring; sun was warm and yellowed on the asphalt.
Mr. Parsons, standing there in front of his hotel and noting the clackclack approach of the sightless man, felt a sudden
foolish sort of pity for all blind creatures.
And, thought Mr. Parsons, he was very glad to be alive. A few years ago he had been little more than a skilled laborer;
now he was successful, respected, admired. Insurance. And he had done it alone, unaided, struggling beneath
handicaps. And he was still young. The blue air of spring, fresh from its memories of windy pools and lush shrubbery,
could thrill him with eagerness.
He took a step forward just as the tap-
"Listen, guv'nor. Just a minute of your time."
Mr. Parson said, "It's late. I have an appointment. Do you want me to give you something?"
"I ain't no beggar, guv'nor. You bet I ain't. I got a handy little article here" -
Mr. Parsons' hand -
Mr. Parsons stood there, somewhat annoyed and embarrassed. He was a handsome figure with his immaculate gray suit and gray
hat and malacca stick. Of course the man with the cigarette lighters could not see him.
"But I don't smoke," he said.
"Listen. I bet you know plenty people who smoke. Nice little present," wheedled the man. "And, mister, you wouldn't mind helping
a poor guy out?" He clung to Mr. Parsons' sleeve.
Mr. Parsons sighed and felt in is vest pocket. He brought out two halfdollars and pressed them into the man's hand. "Certainly, I'll
help you out. As you say, I can give it to someone.. Maybe the elevator boy would -
inquisitive, even with a blind peddler. "Have you lost your sight entirely?"
The shabby man pocketed the two half-
Then he added with an insane sort of pride: "Westbury, sir, I was one of'em." "Westbury," repeated Mr. Parsons. "Ah, yes. The
chemical explosion. The papers haven't mentioned it for years. But at the time it was supposed to be one o the greatest desasters
"They've all forgot about it." The fellow shifted his feet wearily. "I tell you, guv'nor, a man who was in it don't forget about it. Last
thing I ever saw was C shop going up in one grand smudge, and that damn gas pouring in all the busted windows."
Mr. Parsons coughed. But the blind peddler was caught up with the train of his one dramatic reminiscence. And, also, he was thinking
that there might be more half-
"Just think about it, guv'nor. There was a hundred and eight people killed, about two hundred injured injured, and over fifty of them
lost their eyes. Blind as bats -
nothing worse han that in the war. If I had lost my eyes in the war, okay. I would have been well took care of. But I was just a
workman, working for what was in it. And I got it. You're damn right I got it, while the capitalists were making their dough! They was
insured, don't worry about that.
"Insured," repeated his listener. "Yes. That's what I sell -
"You want to know how I lost my eyes?" cried the man. "Well, here it is!" His words fell with the bitter and studied drama of a story
often told, and told for money. "I was there in C shop, last of all the folks rushing out. Out in the air there was a chance, even with
the building exploding right and left. A lot of guys made it safe out the door and got away. And just when I was about there, crawling
along between those big vats, a guy behind me grabs my leg. He says, 'Let me past, you -
Maybe he was nuts. I dunno. I try to forgive him in my heart, guv'nor. But he was bigger than me. He hauls me back and climbs right
over me! Tramples me into the dirt. And he goes out, and I lie there with all that poison gas pouring down on all sides of me and
flames and stuff -
He swallowed -
Now, I want to -
The spring wind shrilled past them, damp and quivering.
"Not quite," said Mr. Parsons.
The blind man shivered crazily. "Not quite? What do you mean, you -
"The story is true," Mr. Parsons said, "except that it was the other way around."
"Other way around?" He croaked unamiably. Say, guv'nor -
"I was in C shop," said Mr. Parsons. "It was the other way around. You were the fellow who hauled back on me and climbed over me.
You were bigger than I was, Markwardt." The blind man stood for a long time swallowing hoarsely. He gulped: "Parsons. By God.
By God! I thought you -
And then he screamed fiendishly: "Yes. Maybe so. Maybe so. But I'm blind! I'm blind, and you've been standing here letting me spout
to you and laughing every minute! I'm blind!"
People in the street turned to stare at him.
Answer the questions in your own words.
(The questions do not refer to the whole text, they refer only to the part in italics !!!)
0. State in not more than two sentences what this extract is about.
1. What is the general and detailed meaning of this passage?
2. What is the reader told of the beggar's outward appearance and what does the information given reveal as to the man's general situation?
3. What do you consider the author's intention in writing this text?
4. What structural and sense devices can you detect in this text and what function do they have?
5. The short story as a work of art has been characterized as follows:
"It centres around one incident in the lives of a limited number of characters, which is often revealed as an unusual incident."
Comment on the relevance of this definition in view of the present text.
Make use of your reading knowledge.