The case of the colorblind
painter describes the tragic events following a car accident. The driver, Jonathan
I., momentarily lost his ability to distinguish letters and colors as well as
permanently damaging the cone cells of the retina which serve as our primary
color receptors (Sacks 2). Therefore Jonathan I., also referred to as Mr. I throughout
the story, was no longer able to see color. Everything in his vision appeared
to be black and white. “My brown dog is dark grey. Tomato juice is black. Color
TV is a hodge-podge” (Sacks 2). Jonathan I. visited ophthalmologist,
neurologist and even hypnotist in search of a solution but found nothing. In
the 1780s, Daltonism was discovered when a man named John Dalton suffered from
colorblindness himself. This is a disorder found in 5% of males (Sacks 3).
Doctors initially diagnosed
Mr. I with cerebral achromatopsia which claims that the color blindness is due
to brain damage. He differed from the usual patient under this diagnose because
he was still aware of colors although he was limited to black and white shades.
This was not the best defect to have for his occupation as a successful artist.
His vision was the centerpiece of interpreting artwork. He continued to live a
life that was based off of physical appearance opposed to the colors that made
it up. If a food had a dead appearance it was seen as disgusting. Mr. I.
adapted to the condition; redecorating an entire room. Also, he redecorated an
entire room to ensure that the color rush consisted of white, black and grey to
reflect his world while only eating white rice and black olives. This was a
method that moderated his sanity. Over time, Jonathan I. learned to distinguish
objects by size, smell and position. No longer able to see color, he learned to
react to stop lights by the position of the light while also being able to pick
out his favorite flowers by utilizing his other sense. He now used descriptions
such as “pale” and “dead black”, to describe the colors he seen. He described
his unique vision as “highly refined and privileged, that sees a world of
pure form, uncluttered by color”. Taking full advantage, he soon became a
night person therefore allowing his weakness to become a strength. Years later
he comes across a doctor that offers to repair his vision in which Jonathan I.
strongly declines the offer.
Initially, Jonathan I. believed
his symptoms were related to a stroke. He believed so because of the sudden
inability to see color. The book describes a stroke as the sudden-onset
cerebrovascular disorders which cause brain damage. The symptoms depend on which
area of the brain is affected. I do not
agree with his prediction. His depth, form and motion blindness were a result
of visual agnosia. I realized that earlier in Oliver Sacks writings he says
that Mr. I. could spot a worm wiggling from a far but faces couldn’t be
identified until close enough. Throughout the brain damage section in the book I
wasn’t able to locate as much as much supporting evidence to make connections
between the case study and the text. The primary things I was able to make
connections with was brain damage itself and his belief that a stroke had
caused his disability.