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to any death which is the direct or indirect result of a positive or negative act accomplished by the victim’ (Durkheim, 1897/1970: 42), the detail to note is that Dick makes his final journey expecting to be shot, that on reaching his destination he says, ‘Put me, I pray, in the forefront of the battle’ (Kipling, 1891/1988: 208). Because deliberately standing in the line of fire is every bit as suicidal as is pulling down the building in which one stands, Dick’s death is linked paradigmatically with that of Samson, as are those of numerous early twentieth- century blind characters. Captain Whalley, in The End of the Tether, decides to drown himself, putting pieces of iron into his pockets in order that the chances of survival are negligible (Conrad, 1902/1995: 294); Wolf Larsen, in the novel The Sea Wolf, sets fire to the mattress on which he sleeps (London, 1904/1993: 283); and the title character in the short story ‘The Blind Man’ sets fire to the house in which he lives, before descending towards his death in a stream (Brecht, 1920- 4/1992: 24-5). Even in the mid twentieth-century novel The Day of the Triffids, Doctor Soames launches himself at a window and crashes through (Wyndham, 1951/1981: 16, see also 19, 56). Finally, more than a century on from The Light That Failed, where Dick Heldar meets with the ‘crowning mercy of a kindly bullet’ (Kipling, 1891/1988: 208), the newly-blind colonel, in the late twentieth-century novel Blindness, initiates a similar end by shooting himself in the head (Saramago, 1995: 104).

Suicide and Visual Impairment

It is evident that in the form of invocation, contemplation and action, suicide is incessant in its literary association with visual impairment. In order that these fictional tendencies can be evaluated, tested against something approximating the facts of the matter, consideration must be given to a sample of three pieces of research that focuses on suicide among people with impaired vision. What emerges from the sample corresponds with a psychologist’s assertion that some clients cannot ‘bear’


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