The Handmaid’s Tale

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The Eye Symbol Icon
The novel is filled with eyes, which represent key topics like paranoia, surveillance, and Gilead’s authority. The Eyes are the terrifying, violent and secretive enforcers of Gilead’s laws. As Offred worries that anyone she meets, from the doctor to Ofglen, might be an Eye, she also sees eyes everywhere, from a tour guide’s badge to her own ankle tattoo. The most complex eye in the book is the plastered-over light socket in Offred’s room, which Offred imagines as a blinded eye. Later she learns that the previous Handmaid hanged herself from the light fixture that used to be there, so that blinded eye comes to signify death and freedom as well.
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The Eye Symbol Timeline in The Handmaid’s Tale

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Eye appears in The Handmaid’s Tale. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Rebellion Theme Icon
...plastered-over hole in the ceiling, formerly for a chandelier, that reminds her of an empty eye socket. Offred remembers Aunt Lydia telling her to think of her life as being in... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...risky move that she could report to the authorities, and fears he might be an Eye. (full context)
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...he thinks about the same thing. Offred thinks about the secretive black vans of the Eyes, which can go through the barricades without pause. Ultimately, Offred decides that the Guardians probably... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The interpreter, with a winged eye pin, asks if the tourists can take pictures of Offred and Ofglen. Offred denies the... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...and the passive word lay, and the latter’s sexual connotations. She lies under the plastered-over eye in the ceiling, deciding on a memory to explore now that she has her private... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...Econowives gesture rudely, disliking Handmaids. Offred and Ofglen part with the official goodbye, “Under His Eye.” Ofglen seems to want to say something else, but doesn’t. (full context)
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...pausing to enjoy the light through the stained glass. The convex mirror looks like an eye to her. The Commander is standing outside her room, which he’s never done before. He... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...her pass to the armed nurse. The examination room has a red screen with an eye painted on it. Offred takes off her clothes and lies on the table, with a... (full context)
Chapter 12.
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...are limited. She looks at her tattoo on her ankle, with four numbers and an eye, which ensures she will always be identifiable. She dresses but doesn’t put on the wings,... (full context)
Chapter 14
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Offred goes downstairs, passing the eye-like mirror. She kneels in the sitting room. The room is luxuriously decorated in Serena Joy’s... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...imagine his point of view, scrutinized like this. She imagines his penis as a slug eye. She knows he’s very powerful, and can’t tell if his position is fine or hellish.... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Offred lies in bed, imagining the plastered eye in her ceiling staring at her. She looks at the moon and profoundly misses Luke,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...school. She thinks of the camera lens, as seen by primitive populations, as a “glass eye.” But instead of anthropological movies, Aunt Lydia shows sadistic porn and even a movie of... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Fertility Theme Icon
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...the Birth, Offred goes to her room, exhausted. Today the plaster wreath around the plaster eye in her ceiling looks like a hat with a garland of flowers and fruits. She... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...of them could be Luke. Offred thinks about the university campus, now belonging to the Eyes. She imagines the murals of Victory and Death inside of the main library. (full context)
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Offred and Ofglen fearfully watch the approach of a black van with the winged eye symbol painted on it. Two Eyes come out, grab a man on the street, somehow... (full context)
Chapter 31
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Ofglen says the Eyes now eat at the hall. She tells Offred about the Resistance movement’s password, “Mayday,” which... (full context)
Chapter 46
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...stands, maybe planning to do something, and sees that a black van with the winged eye logo has come to the house. Two men come out and ring the doorbell. Offred... (full context)
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Serena Joy and the Commander look surprised. They didn’t call the Eyes. Serena Joy asks what Offred did, and they don’t say. The Commander asks for a... (full context)
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The two Eyes help Offred get into the van. She knows she can’t do anything else, and so... (full context)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale
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...banned magazines and books and for hosting a rebel, probably Nick. Nick was probably an Eye as well as a member of the Resistance. Though the Commander would have known that... (full context)
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...have killed Offred to protect himself, but he got her to escape with the rebel Eyes instead. (full context)