Reflections in a Golden Eye

by Carson McCullers

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Here are some quotes from Reflections in a Golden Eye.

In his eyes, which were a curious blend of amber and brown, there was a mute expression that is found usually in the eyes of animals. (4).

Private Williams is likened to an animal. He is almost inhuman in demeanor, as he has the instinct to follow around the beautiful Leonora. Williams is able to get along well with animals—such as the horses in the stables—but his nondescript character makes him almost inhuman. He is a pawn in this story about the violence between Captain Penderton and Leonora.

Leonora Penderton feared neither man, beast, nor the Devil; God she had never known. (15)

Leonora, Captain Penderton's wife, is, like Private Williams, portrayed more as a kind of animal than as a person. She has an affinity for horses, and she has little human intelligence. In fact, she is revealed to be feeble-minded. She can not do math, and writing a simple letter requires all her strength and energy. However, she keeps this truth hidden from most people on the army base.

They had found Mrs. Langdon unconscious and she had cut off the tender nipples of her breasts with the garden shears. (41)

Alison Langdon, the Major's wife, is desperately unhappy after giving birth to a baby who dies. The severing of her nipples is symbolic, as she is not a "mother" after the death of her baby. In addition, she lives a life of loneliness and isolation, mostly spending time with her Filipino house servant Anacleto. Cultured and reserved, Alison is portrayed as the opposite of the feisty and hot-tempered Leonora, who is having an affair with Major Langdon.

He tried, and succeeded, in looking at her obvious unhappiness as something morbid and female, altogether outside his control. (35)

Major Langdon does not understand his wife, Alison, or her relationship with her Anacleto. Major Langdon is portrayed as a kind of insensitive brute who doesn't understand his wife's sensitive ways. In the end, he commits her to a mental institution, where she kills herself. Their marriage is doomed to fail.

In these reconnoiterings, and during the dark vigils in The Lady's room, the soldier had no fear. He felt, but he did not think. (89)

Private Williams spies on Leonora at night. He enjoys watching her in a stealthy, animal-like way. He does not have the fear he should have at trespassing, and he is eventually shot by Weldon. Private Williams's death is symbolic of the way in which Weldon tries to squelch his attraction to Williams and to men in general. Williams is the victim in the mismatched relationship between Weldon and Leonora.

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