This was the original title for The Handmaid’s Tale, so how appropriate that it’s the title for the TV series’ first episode. When I first watched the first season, it had been several years since I’d read the book. Now, having reread the book this month, I’ve noticed more details about how the two stories compare. The show, for instance, begins with the scene of June’s escape from Gilead with her husband and daughter (Luke and Hannah). As readers, we don’t have a glimpse of this scene until near the end of the novel.
There are a lot of links with the novel, though. There’s an early scene in the book in which Offred (Of Fred, who was once June) observes the shape of an eye in a ceiling moulding in the Waterfords’ house (I think it’s mentioned in the voiceover of the series, too) and of course there’s the infamous line “Under His Eye”, intended to reflect an overarching gaze, to inspire obedience and servitude. And after the escape goes wrong, and June is falling in and out of consciousness in the van, the light above serves another kind of eye, which then transposes into a window, the window of the room she is staying in, which affords her a limited view of the world below, her eye on the world.
In the show, however, the Waterfords are younger and abler. Serena walks with a cane in the book, has arthritis in her hands, and she appears “withered”. Both the Waterfords are grey and fragile, despite their status. I don’t know whether it’s more or less haunting that they wield tremendous power when they are more or less robust. Either way, it’s a chilling scene and, in the show, Serena lays out her terms immediately. She will give trouble if she gets trouble. (Of course, she’s trouble from the start, if you have less power than she.)