Why Do They Say Under His Eye?

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Within the captivating realm of literature and popular culture, certain phrases manage to transcend their origins and become emblematic of an entire narrative universe. One such phrase that has sparked intrigue and captured the imagination of many is “Under His Eye.” Fans of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and its television adaptation have likely encountered this enigmatic phrase numerous times. But what does it truly mean? In this thought-provoking exploration, we delve into the origins, symbolism, and significance of the phrase “Under His Eye,” unveiling its nuanced layers and shedding light on its profound cultural impact.

Why do they say under his eye?

The Eye of Surveillance:

Amidst the harrowing backdrop of Gilead, a totalitarian society depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the phrase “Under His Eye” resonates as a constant reminder of a surveillance state’s omnipresence. It is an eerie testament to the regime’s relentless watchfulness and control over its subjects. The “His” in “Under His Eye” refers to the ruling power of Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship where every aspect of people’s lives is strictly monitored and regulated. Under the watchful gaze of this unseen authority, the phrase instills fear, obedience, and a perpetual sense of vulnerability.

Within the realm of surveillance, the eye has long been a potent symbol. It embodies the concept of being seen and judged, leaving no room for privacy or individual autonomy. The eye’s watchful presence, metaphorically and sometimes literally, permeates every aspect of Gilead’s society. Atwood’s masterful choice to evoke the eye in this context taps into our collective unease regarding surveillance societies, calling attention to the potential erosion of personal freedoms and the loss of privacy in our own reality.

The Symbolism of Religious Allegiance:

The theocratic foundations of Gilead cannot be overlooked when deciphering the significance of “Under His Eye.” The phrase intertwines the themes of religious devotion, submission, and the ever-present weight of judgment. The patriarchal hierarchy of Gilead elevates religious dogma to an alarming extent, employing it as a tool of oppression and control.

“Under His Eye” represents the all-seeing gaze of God, as understood within the religious context of Gilead. In the novel, Gilead distorts Christianity to justify its oppressive policies, particularly towards women. The phrase captures the essence of a society in which faith is weaponized and conformity to religious ideals is demanded. It acts as a constant reminder that every action, thought, and desire is subject to divine scrutiny.

Moreover, the religious symbolism of “Under His Eye” evokes a sense of collective guilt and shame. In Gilead, individual agency is sacrificed in the name of religious fervor, fostering an environment where dissent and nonconformity are harshly punished. The phrase, spoken frequently by the Handmaids, serves as both a proclamation of their devout allegiance and a subtle warning to others. It perpetuates a climate of suspicion, reinforcing the idea that betrayal lurks around every corner.

The Power of Repetition:

Repetition plays a crucial role in shaping the impact of “Under His Eye.” In the dystopian realm of Gilead, where conformity is enforced, the phrase becomes a linguistic tool that reinforces the regime’s authority and solidifies its control over language itself. By repeatedly uttering “Under His Eye,” the characters internalize their submission, ultimately shaping their thoughts and actions in alignment with the regime’s expectations.

The phrase’s pervasive repetition further accentuates its ominous undertones. The relentless echoing of “Under His Eye” establishes an atmosphere of perpetual surveillance and psychological manipulation. This linguistic device illustrates the profound impact that repeated phrases and rhetorical mantras can have on a society. It highlights how language can be weaponized to subjugate individuals, suppress dissent, and enforce conformity. By ceaselessly invoking “Under His Eye,” Gilead seeks to create a collective consciousness that operates within the confines of its oppressive regime.

Additionally, the repetitive nature of the phrase serves as a form of psychological conditioning. It functions as a mechanism to instill fear, reinforcing the notion that disobedience or deviating from the prescribed path will not go unnoticed or unpunished. The constant reminder of the watchful eye breeds a sense of self-policing among the citizens of Gilead, further perpetuating the regime’s power and control.

Social Control and Gender Dynamics:

“Under His Eye” holds particular significance in the context of gender dynamics within Gilead. The phrase is most commonly used by the Handmaids, women who are reduced to mere vessels for procreation under the regime’s strict reproductive control. It becomes a mantra that binds them together, reminding them of their collective oppression and shared vulnerability.

In Gilead, women are systematically stripped of their autonomy, reduced to their roles as wives, Handmaids, or other subordinate positions. “Under His Eye” reinforces this gendered hierarchy, emphasizing the subservience of women to the ruling power. The phrase functions as a constant reminder to the Handmaids of their duty and the ever-present threat of punishment for disobedience.

Furthermore, “Under His Eye” perpetuates the pervasive culture of victim-blaming and internalized misogyny. By implying that God’s judgment is always upon them, the Handmaids are made to feel responsible for any transgressions or harm inflicted upon them. It fosters a culture where women are conditioned to view their own suffering as a result of their perceived moral failings, rather than the oppressive system that subjugates them.

Cultural Impact and Resonance:

Beyond the confines of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the phrase “Under His Eye” has resonated with audiences on a broader cultural level. It has become a symbol of surveillance, religious fanaticism, and the erosion of individual liberties. The phrase serves as a potent reminder of the dangers posed by authoritarian regimes and the importance of vigilance in safeguarding our freedoms.

“Under His Eye” has also permeated popular discourse, finding its way into various social and political discussions. It has been appropriated as a slogan in protests and movements that seek to shed light on abuses of power and demand transparency. Its usage as a rallying cry signifies a collective resistance against oppressive forces and a call for accountability.

In the realm of popular culture, the phrase has seeped into everyday language, often used in a tongue-in-cheek manner to evoke a sense of playful unease. Its recognition has become a testament to the enduring power of literature to shape our collective consciousness and influence our social discourse.


In the dystopian landscape of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the phrase “Under His Eye” encompasses a multitude of meanings and layers. It represents the ever-watchful eye of a surveillance state, the weight of religious judgment, and the systemic oppression of women. Through repetition and cultural resonance, the phrase becomes a powerful tool of control, conditioning individuals to adhere to the regime’s dictates.

As we reflect on the significance of “Under His Eye,” we are compelled to confront the potential dangers of unchecked power, the erosion of personal freedoms, and the importance of challenging oppressive systems. This enigmatic phrase serves as a poignant reminder that our collective vigilance and unwavering commitment to safeguarding our liberties are crucial in the face of authoritarianism and social injustice.

Why Do They Say Under His Eye?
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