We love books and in our adventures through literature we came across a few pair of opticals that caught our attention as having a significant role in the story.
A pair of glasses can mean many things in literature. They can be a passing character descriptor, as in the case of middle manager Newman in ‘Focus’, provide insight on the nature of a character such as Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ or they can underline contextual details like the loss of spiritual values in America in ‘The Great Gatsby’. What are your favorite literary specs?
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding
One of the most famous pair of glasses in literature belongs to Piggy in Golding’s novel. They are used as “burning glasses” to start a fire (physically impossible as Piggy is short-sighted). Then nasty Jack breaks one of the lenses. Later the specs are stolen, leaving Piggy almost sightless as a prelude to his murder.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee
Atticus Finch wear glasses, which a number of literary critics have theorized are a reflection of his gentle and inquisitive, yet calculated and clear-seeing persona. Atticus’ representation of black defendants at the height of American civil rights turmoil in southern Alabama shows his ability to see through social, class, and cultural divides to defend justice and set a precedent in the courtroom.
‘Emma’ by Jane Austen
Emma visits the Bates abode to find Mrs Bates “slumbering on one side of the fire” while Frank Churchill, sits at a nearby table “most deedily occupied about her spectacles, and Jane Fairfax, standing with her back to them, intent on her pianoforte”. Little does Emma realize that he is performing the glasses repair because he is romantically attached to Jane.
‘The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez’ – by Arthur Conan Doyle
Holmes puts together a profile of a murderer from a pair of golden pince-nez found in the victim’s grasp. He also deduces that, being severely short-sighted, she would not have escaped the murder scene without leaving evidence of her progress. And this may not come as a surprise, as he is once again right. She is still in the house. 😉
‘Focus’ by Arthur Miller
The story presents middle manager Newman, a nondescript character, whose life changes radically when he gets a new pair of glasses. Suddenly he starts being mistaken for a Jew. The action is set in New York, in the ‘40s. And now, even though he previously was indifferent to racism, suddenly discovers a world full of bigotry.
‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald
There’s one symbol that hangs over Fitzgerald’s novel: an enormous billboard of a giant pair of glasses, advertising the services of a New York optometrist. His eyes fix passing motorists on the highway through the Valley of Ashes. “They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose”. No one escapes their “persistent stare”. And the eyes symbolize the loss of spiritual values in America – the growing commercialism of America – life in America is all about making money, a lot of money as evidenced by the wealth of people like Tom Buchanan – a man’s success is measured in terms of how much money he is worth, not on what kind of person he may be morally.
Also published on Medium.