Through reading Saramago’s The Tale of the Unknown Island, we can learn of a love story blossoming between two protagonists. Before introducing the theme of love, Saramago first presents a moral lesson, in that individuals who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone will discover their dreams. For instance, when the man who asked for a ship “step outside [himself],” he metaphorically enters into a dreamlike state where he journeys to the unknown, discovering his love for the cleaning lady in the process. From another perspective, the man with the ship is mapping his own life, or a reflection of his love journey. In his genius, Saramago presents the theme of love from a completely different perspective. Although one cannot argue that Saramago is a romantic based on only one novel, but by focusing more on the dialogues and the actions undertaken by the characters, he shifts our attention from their names and directs our attention to the meaning behind those actions. Indeed, while the man with the ship was initially dishearten by the lack of supplies and the unwillingness of sailors to venture into the unknown, he eventually (although accidentally) “leave the island in order to see the island.” Thus, because of his courage and patience, the man is able to venture on a journey to seek the unknown, and he ends with discovering love, which one can argue that we are often oblivious to love, despite it being in plain sight.
Saramago’s short novel would not be much of a love story if a female protagonist does not exist, and indeed, he presents us the transformation of a cleaning lady into the first mate, working together with the male protagonist. Without her, there will be no discovery of the unknown, as it was the cleaning lady that urges the man “… in order to see the island, that we can’t see ourselves unless we become free of ourselves.” Without taking the first step into the unknown, which may very well be love, the unknown cannot be known. Interestingly, the concept, there is no unknown because an unknown has to stay unknown for it to be unknown, can also be thought of in the context of a journey. In their case, the male protagonist sets out for the unknown, and he finds what was there all along- his desire for love.