Going Blind by Henry Lawson
In Going Blind by Henry Lawson we have the theme of connection, helplessness, compassion, struggle, fear, respect, optimism and control. Taken from his While the Billy Boils collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Lawson may be exploring the theme of connection. While staying in the boarding house the narrator strikes up a friendship with Jack. He sits on Jack’s bed and they share stories with each other. Stories about the men they have worked with and the jobs they have once had. It is as though Jack is pleased to have the company of the narrator as he knows that his health is failing him fast. If anything not only is there a sense of connection between the narrator and Jack but both men appear to be good companions to one another. The narrator making sure that he looks out for Jack’s well-being. This may be important as the narrator may realise that Jack in reality is nearing a state of helplessness. He can no longer do the things that he had once been able to do. It is also noticeable that throughout the story the narrator is compassionate towards Jack. As too is Jack’s brother Joe. Though Joe does appear to be overprotective of Jack. Something that many readers may understand.
What is also interesting about the story is that despite the fact that the narrator himself appears to be struggling. He still nonetheless devotes a lot of his time to Jack. Which may lead some to suggest that the narrator respects the older Jack. He knows of the struggles he has been through as he himself has gone through them. Unfortunately for Jack life will not be getting any easier. He is on a downward spiral with his options in life being limited. Though interestingly enough Jack is optimistic. Something that becomes clear to the reader when he suggests he can go home and shear sheep. Ensuring that at least in some ways he is still living a productive life. This may be important as at no stage in the story does the reader think that despite his ailments. Jack is prepared to give up on life. He may be nearly deaf and blind but he still feels as though he has a purpose in life. Something also noticeable by the fact that Jack plays the concertina at one stage of the story.
Though Jack is near the end of his life. Rather than feeling sorry for himself he takes each day one day at a time. Looking forward to what life might bring him. In reality Jack does not lose his optimism. This may be important as it could suggest that Jack has never lost his drive despite the fact that his body is beginning to let him down. Unfortunately others in the boarding house do not view Jack with the same compassion or decency as the narrator does. Something that is clear to the reader when Jack is moved out to the stair way. Something which annoys the narrator and understandably so. He has built up a friendship in a small period of time with Jack and has Jack’s best interests at heart. As too does Joe who as mentioned is exceptionally overprotective of Jack. It is also interesting that the narrator due to his physical appearance does not go to those who may have influence and who may be able to help Jack as Lawson might be suggesting that not only were appearances important at the time but there may have been a division in class too. With very few doctors or those who had influence actually listening to what the narrator might have to say.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense that Jack for the first time in the story is afraid. Something that is noticeable when he holds the narrator’ hand. Jack knows that his life is going to change from what it was and there may be some uncertainty as to what he might be facing in the future. His aspirations to sheer sheep or play the concertina may not come to fruition and he may be left to slowly degenerate. It is as though Jack may be facing another uphill battle in which he has no control over. There is no doubting that Joe loves and is protective of Jack. However Jack may soon lose all the independence he once had as soon as he leaves the boarding house with Joe. A life that has been well-lived may be about to change so dramatically for Jack. Without knowing it Joe could be taking Jack away from a world that he understands. However it is also a world in whereby those who live in it may not necessarily see any value in Jack being a part of it. That is with the exception of the narrator.