Eleanor’s glasses symbolize Violet’s grief for her sister. After Eleanor died in a car accident about nine months before the novel begins, Violet began wearing Eleanor’s glasses in the hope that they’d help her connect with Eleanor. But in practice, wearing Eleanor’s glasses means that Violet goes about her day unable to properly see, since she and Eleanor have different glasses prescriptions. Indeed, Violet even notes that the world swims and warps when she puts Eleanor’s glasses on—showing how her desire to stay connected to Eleanor is actually detrimental to Violet’s health and healing. In other words, Violet is so caught up in mourning Eleanor’s death that she struggles to see and connect with the world around her.
Thus, it’s significant when Violet eventually takes off Eleanor’s glasses and leaves them in Eleanor’s room. At this point, a few weeks after Violet and Finch start working on their geography project, Violet has finally begun to heal and is in the process of falling in love with Finch. Getting out with Finch has shown her that there are still things worth living for; she doesn’t need to focus on Eleanor’s memory and ignore everything else. When Violet notes that she can almost hear Eleanor laughing as she puts the glasses down and tells Eleanor that the glasses looked better on Eleanor anyway, it suggests that Violet is aware that Eleanor would’ve wanted her to move on. As Violet heals, she becomes more willing to accept that it’s better to honor Eleanor’s memory by living, not by trying to turn herself into Eleanor.
Eleanor’s Glasses Quotes in All the Bright Places
I have a headache. Probably from the glasses. Eleanor’s eyes were worse than mine. I take the glasses off and set them on the desk. They were stylish on her. They’re ugly on me. Especially with the bangs. But maybe, if I wear the glasses long enough, I can be like her. I can see what she saw. I can be both of us at once so no one will have to miss her, most of all me.
I set her glasses down on her dresser. “Thanks for the loan,” I say. “But they make my head hurt. And they’re ugly.” I can almost hear her laughing.