Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
“Amazing Grace,” John Newton
A very pointed use of metaphor in “The Summer Man,” has Miss Blankenship wearing dark glasses after eye surgery. Quoting from “Amazing Grace,” John Newton’s famous hymn partly inspired by the biblical story of a blind beggar (New Testament hobo) who regains his vision, Blankenship tells Don that she once was blind, but now can see.
The central storyline of “The Summer Man” involves Don’s efforts to get his life back on track after seeing what he has become.
Don’s swimming regime (baptism?) is established early on as part of this renewal program. He emerges from his club into the bright light of day. Squinting at the sun, Don puts on a pair of dark glasses. As if awoken from a sleep, he becomes aware of a new world around him to the tune of a Rolling Stones number he has just heard on a transistor radio.
The sun motif is echoed later during Don’s date with Dr. Miller. She tells the Aesop fable about the sun and the wind staging a contest to see who can get a traveler (another hobo perhaps?) to take off his coat first. Since Don must surely have heard this story before, its symbolic use here would seem apparent. By getting Don to give up his jacket for her, a clear connection is made linking Dr. Miller to the sun. A similar such connection was previously made for Suzanne Farrell. In Season 3’s “Wee Small Hours,” Farrell prominently wears a Bowdoin t-shirt. Bowdoin’s official college seal features a sun. Incidentally, the sun (and the chaos which ensues while losing sight of it during an eclipse) was an important device in another pivotal Season 3 episode, “Seven Twenty Three.”
Farrell and Miller both recognize Don’s self-delusional nature and try in their own respective ways to get him to “see the light.” As has been pointed out in a previous post, Dr. Miller wears green on her date with Don. The color most associated with Suzanne Farrell was green as well. Of course, Don’s relationship with the teacher ended poorly (as she more or less predicted). It remains to be seen how Don’s association with the doctor will pan out. However, Dr. Miller seems to be having a positive effect in his life. Don awakens on the morning after their dinner and while facing the sun shining outside his bedroom window decides to go to his son’s birthday party.
Other notable moments of “blindness” from “The Summer Man.”
- Ken mentions an uncle who went blind after contracting syphilis.
- During Joan’s dressing down of the men in the creative department, Stan, oblivious to his chauvinistic ways, is shown wearing glasses similar looking to the ones worn by Miss Blankenship’s glasses.
- Peggy is blindsided by Joan’s angry reaction to her firing of Joey.
- Henry Francis does not notice Betty’s expression while gazing at Don holding Gene.