Blindfolded, I could no longer control my motions. I had no dignity. I stumbled about like a baby or a drunken man.
The narrator recounts the details of the fierce battle royal and introduces a major theme of the novel: blindness to justice and reality. Ten blindfolded boys fitted with boxing gloves fight in a ring until only two remain. At one point, the narrator tries to remove his blindfold, but someone yells at him to leave it alone. Earlier, he has referred to sleepwalkers as being dangerous, suggesting that blindness, whether literal or figurative, threatens his safety and the safety of his culture.
He believes in that great false wisdom taught slaves and pragmatists alike, that white is right. I can tell you his destiny. He'll do your bidding, and for that his blindness is his chief asset.
One of the vets at the Golden Day bar compares white supremacy to a form of blindness shared by blacks and whites alike. Mr. Norton responds by characterizing the vet as “insane as the rest,” further testimony to the vet’s wisdom and sanity.
It was when he raised his head that I saw it. For a swift instant, between the gesture and the opaque glitter of his glasses, I saw the blinking of sightless eyes. Homer A. Barbee was blind.
The narrator recounts his moment of realization of Dr. Barbee’s blindness. The discovery occurs during Dr. Barbee’s rousing inspirational speech at the narrator’s college, a speech the narrator credits “made me see the vision.” However, Dr. Barbee flounders and falls on the stage, dropping his glasses as two white trustees help him to his feet. At this moment the narrator realizes Dr. Barbee’s literal blindness, a metaphor for his race’s blindness to its own strength and purpose.
“Let's make a miracle,” I shouted. “Let's take back our pillaged eyes! Let's reclaim our sight; let's combine and spread our vision. Peep around the corner, there's a storm coming. Look down the avenue, there's only one enemy. Can't you see his face?”
The crowd adores the narrator as he delivers his speech at the arena, and he continues with these words, inspired by their enthusiasm. He responds like a preacher with a congregation, a teacher with his students, a leader with his followers, as he uses the metaphor of blindness to expose their shortcomings and inspire them to see the light of truth. This moment reflects the narrator’s growing strength and energy as he finds his new voice and his new power.