Two major symbols in The Lord of the Rings deal with the theme of vision:

  1. Sauron's incarnation is an all-seeing eye
  2. Sauron's ring of power grants its user the ability to become invisible

What could be the significance of the duality between being always seen (by Sauron's eye) vs. disappearing from sight (by wearing the ring)? What might Tolkien have been trying to say using this theme, especially as it relates to all the other themes in the books, namely death, loss, etc.?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Matt Gutting, TGnat, Jason Baker, Null, The Fallen Apr 29 '15 at 1:15

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  • Your first symbol (the all-seeing eye) only exists in the movies; thus it's a construction of Peter Jackson et al. rather than of Tolkien. Are you dealing with the book or the movies? – Matt Gutting Apr 28 '15 at 21:20
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    You can throw in the Palantiri, which enable remote vision. – Joe L. Apr 28 '15 at 21:39
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    @MattGutting That's not entirely correct. The physical flaming eye at the top of Barad-dur was an invention of the movie, but the all-seeing Eye of Sauron, as a psychic/metaphysical presence, does feature prominently in the book. – Nerrolken Apr 28 '15 at 21:44
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    The invisibility caused by the Ring wasn't invisibility in the usual sense; it was a side effect of the wearer being drawn partly into the netherworld. [Gandalf]: "You were in gravest peril while you wore the Ring, for then you were half in the wraith-world yourself, and they might have seized you. You could see them, and they could see you.’" – Joe L. Apr 28 '15 at 21:44
  • @Nerrolken Granted; but I'd argue that as a "psychic/metaphysical" entity it doesn't qualify as an "incarnation" per se: Sauron had a physical incarnation which had the Eye as a side effect of sorts. – Matt Gutting Apr 29 '15 at 3:26