Study Guide

Eye of the Needle

by Ken Follett

Eye of the Needle Analysis

Literary Techniques

Several critics have expressed appreciation for Follett's fine ability to expand upon historical fact when concocting plots for his novels. Robert Lekachman in Nation magazine praises Follett's ability to create a "variation upon history."

The complex plot of Eye of the Needle, for example, is based upon the secret Allied plan to conceal the actual landing site of the D-Day forces during World War II. In 1944, through an elaborate hoax, the Allies hoped to convince the Germans that the D-Day invasion would take place at Calais rather than Normandy. Although there were very few German spies working in Britain, Follett creates a clever Nazi agent who discovers this key Allied plan and attempts to reveal the information to Hitler. Thus, Follett's plot contains elements of both fact and fiction, a combination which adds a vital dynamic to the novel's fascination. Follett's talent for capturing a reader's curiosity concerning historical events accounts for much of the novel's popular success, or at least, as Follett states, "one suspects something like this must have happened."

(The entire section is 172 words.)

Eye of the Needle Social Concerns

In Eye of the Needle, set during World War II, Follett presents an intriguing conflict between patriotism and personal feelings through the character of Lucy Rose. At the end of the novel, patriotism wins out, but not before the heroine's loyalty is sufficiently tested.

Lonely and vulnerable, Lucy Rose is drawn into a desperate love affair with a clever German spy, Henry Faber. At first, she believes the only real threat is to her marriage, a threat she is prepared to accept. However, she later realizes her lover's association with the enemy and is forced to confront the greater threat to her life and to her country. In a final display of wit and courage, Lucy Rose chooses to save Britain and spurn her desire for its enemy. She successfully stops the spy from broadcasting his vital message and then murders him to prevent his relaying the message in person.

(The entire section is 150 words.)

Eye of the Needle Literary Precedents

Upon publication of Eye of the Needle, critics compared Follett's novel to other contemporary thrillers produced by John le Carre and Helen MacInnes. More importantly, Michael Wood's article in The Saturday Review places Follett's novel alongside the classic, The Day of The Jackal, because both thrillers contain "a double narrative focused on the pursuer and the pursued, with suspense extremely well sustained." Also, both novels are based upon a fictional variation of World War II events that culminate in last minute action which is key to the Allied defense effort. As Publishers' Weekly concluded concerning the literary rank of Eye of the Needle: "This World War II espionage tale is right up there with the best of them."

(The entire section is 118 words.)

Eye of the Needle Adaptations

Eye of the Needle was produced as a motion picture in 1981 by Stephen Friedman for MGM/United Artists. It was filmed on location in England, Scotland, and on the Isle of Mull, with David Sutherland starring as Henry Faber and Kate Nelligan as Lucy Rose.

According to Magill's Cinema Annual (1982), the production received "mixed to negative reviews." An example is the review by Newsweek critic, David Ansen, who both applauds and pans the film. Ansen praises Stanly Mann for his "straight forward and unembellished adaptation" of Follett's plot but discredits director Richard Marquand, noting that "he may have overestimated the strength of the story." At the end of the article, Ansen labels the movie "dull and predictable."

On the other hand, New York film critic David Denby appreciated Eye of the Needle's quiet suspense and simplicity. He admitted that the movie "would not inspire new magazine cover stories, fashion shows, or celebrity-filled parties," saying in its defense, "It's a movie, not a media event."

(The entire section is 164 words.)