Friday, March 28, 2008
Walking Blindly into that Light
In the poem, “The Parable of the Blind” by William Carlos Williams the speaker is using the painting “The Parable of the Blind” by Peter Brueghel to express the main idea that following the ignorant can only lead a person astray. The speaker sees the blind “leading/each other”(5-6) downwards, though the faces are “raised/as toward the light”(19-20), they follow the others “hand triumphant to disaster,”(24) illustrating that having blind faith in others leads to discord.
The speaker points out that he is telling a “parable of the blind/without a red”(2-3). The color red is used to refer to warnings, since red is a color of danger, it requires an assessment of this danger; that danger is following others without questioning and examination. The blind “beggars” represents humankind during the setting of this painting; the ignorant lower-classes sough out guidance from a higher being through its liaison the church which was the only one to interpret the biblical scriptures. The beggars are uneducated people who are too poor to afford the luxury of being schooled which created illiterates and made the lower class people puppets to the church. Education is freedom from ignorance but if people depend on each other’s belief unquestionably they are leading each other astray.
The speaker than focuses, “across the canvas/from one side/to stumble finally into a bog/where the picture/and the composition ends back/of which no seeing man”(7-12). He is showing where blind faith will lead a person towards, which is represented as a bog. This bog is the bottom of the low, it is the representation of trouble; with the insecurity of the future one might place all confidence in another which is just irresponsible as they will end up falling down in to that bog. As the blind are following each other their “faces are raised”(19) facing the light of the sun. Religion appears in the form of this “light” that the beggars are feeling the warmth of it, which shows how people trust their feelings instead of reason. The fickle emotions that one relies on are unreliable and beliefs must be backed up by evidence or else it will be inevitable that a person will perish by their gut feelings. It is religion that creates faith, faith that is not based on proof but rather it plays on the emotions of the believer. A person’s absolute devout unquestionable faith is the topic the speaker is criticizing. The purpose is to open the eyes of the people so that superstition is replaced by logic and reason.
The blind are walking hand-in-hand in full belief that faith will save them from falling to their “disaster.” It is the shoulders that the blinds hold on to and they follow their front partners unknowing what is in front of them yet they have faith. In this canvas faith will not save the beggars from tripping over into the bog, rather it blinds them from the truth that lies in front of them. This image also portrays conformity as each one is following another to their dooms. In conformity, individuality is not existent and so people must act accordingly to the socially accepted behavior of society. Individuality must be given-up which is equivalent to falling to one’s doom and in this canvas as one follows the other they are walking to their own death.
In brief the canvas and the poem “The Parable of the Blind” express how blind people are when they accept the teachings of others with whole devotion and faith; by being dependent on others their source for guidance could take advantage of them and lead them astray. It is when a person is educated are they free from others and independent for themselves to find their own way of walking their own path.