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.
The Eye Quotes in The Handmaid’s Tale
The The Handmaid’s Tale quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Eye. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin Company edition of The Handmaid’s Tale published in 1986.).
Chapter 2 Quotes
Waste not want not. I am not being wasted. Why do I want?
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.
...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)
...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)
Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale