Blind Date – an effective exploration of interactions

‘Blind Date’ is an engaging short story by Janette Turner Hospital that successfully draws us into the world of a young blind boy on the day of his sister’s wedding. Told as a linear narrative, with flashbacks from Lachlan’s perspective and details provided by his sister Pamela, we follow the protagonist’s shocking realisation of his father’s absence. It is the first story from Turner Hospital’s anthology Forecast: Turbulence, published in 2011, where

Violent weather pervades this breathtaking collection, reflecting the cataclysmic emotions swirling through the lives of the protagonists.

These stories, of heartbreaking poignancy, shocking power and steadfast resolve, all grapple with a universal question: how can we maintain equilibrium in a turbulent and uncertain world?

We read, discussed and analysed ‘Blind Date’ while studying The Black Balloon, Elissa Down’s debut film about growing up with an autistic sibling for Module C: Texts and Society – Elective 1 Exploring Interactions.

We noted the ambiguity inherent in the title, and spent some time considering the denoted meaning and connotations of each word:

  • ‘blind’ has both metaphorical and literal implications, while
  • ‘date’ is equally loaded with emotional expectations.

We agreed that the title created a sense of curiosity for the reader, and that we were not expecting the story that followed. In understanding the dust cover’s reference to weather, we were on the lookout for emotional links, and found that 10 year old Lachlan had an intense relationship with cyclones, storms and rain, particularly expressed in yearning for his absent father.

In considering this narrative as related material, we thought of the following themes that would promote a rich discussion and allow an essay to effectively move between texts. These are:

  • abandonment or isolation
  • individual perspectives
  • parenting
  • relationships

We noted the beautifully crafted writing employed by Turner Hospital and its ability to use sensual language in deepening our understanding of how a blind person might make sense of the world. Although his disability is not obvious, Turner Hospital cleverly weaves clues throughout the narrative, a lexical chain leading us to accept Lachlan’s uniques perspective  – ‘He reads footsteps.’ – as valid.

We appreciate Lachlan’s referencing of tactile and aromatic features when recalling events, made clear through the use of similes:

Lachlan vividly remembers his father’s voice: the smoky scratchy sound, soft at the edges like a train going into a tunnel.

Later, Lachlan thinks of his father’s tight hug as a ‘washing machine’:

His face was pressed into his father’s shirt where the collar met the yoke and there was a damp vibrating sweetness that Lachlan recognised. The smell was like baskets of clothing waiting to be ironed and like the mounds of sheet where his mother set him down while she folded and stacked.

Some students decided that:

Similarly, in ‘Blind Date’, the italics used in ‘Lachlan’s father has come back’ indicates the way Lachlan interacts in a tense situation. The sensory description in this story is frequent, relying on touch, smell and sound. A ‘white satin cushion’ described by Lachlan is intriguing to the audience as he is not able to physically ‘see’ the colour of the cushion. Lachlan feels the satin and the purity of the object’s significance to assume its colour, characterising him as a clever boy.

‘Blind Date’ explores a father and son connection to promote the various effects of interaction in a positive enlightening manner. Personification of ‘the organ pipes will announce’ when suggesting Lachlan’s father will appear reinforces Lachlan’s anticipation to rekindle their relationship and excitement to regain a connection with his father. The association Lachlan feels with his father regardless of time spent apart is provoked through irony in the dialogue ‘I can see him’, a strong bond between the two is depicted and although Lachlan’s father left when he was very young, Lachlan still feels his constant presence and induces detailed memories. Lachlan’s immediate disbelief filled with rage when asking the rhetorical question ‘You know where dad is?’ depicts the longing he feels for his father and therefore betrayal as his family has kept his location from Lachlan. When Lachlan finally feels the sensation of his father’s hand on hi shoulder an expression of commitment is affirmed through repetition of him stating ‘I do.’ Ultimately, Lachlan’s father implements a connection that provokes various interactions to be examined.

*featured image from Science of Us article  ‘What Dreams Are Like for Blind People.’

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