The Most Visible Chain: Shinigami, Punishment, and Eyeglasses
We understand that all the shinigami are being punished for not cherishing the lives they had. In an odd sense, their realm is almost like a prison - but the door has been left open and they’re free to go into and out of the living world. Exactly what restrictions apply is uncertain, but they do have the capability to travel between the two realms. This sets up an interesting scenario because sticking with their punishment relies on them and their desire to find their own redemption. In fact, Ronald Knox immediately noticed Undertaker wasn’t wearing his glasses and asked if he was one of those ‘deserters.’ The way that he says this, make it look like it’s not an uncommon thing.
It would make sense that you’d have those that desert since it’s like an open prison. Here we have individuals who are being punished for some unspecified amount of time - forced to deal with death constantly and continue an existence when most had wanted things to end. The living world is within their grasp and they see it daily. It must be very tempting to just run off and try to carve out some happiness, so I would think that Undertaker is far from the first or the last to desert. In fact, it leads to the question why so many stick with being shinigami for as long as they do. Is it just the shot of redemption or is it something more? While considering this, I found myself wondering what the true difference between a deserter and a shinigami acting as a rogue. Ronald and Undertaker both point out the similarities between Grell and Undertaker, but Grell was never considered a deserter. The first assumption is this is because she continued working as a shinigami during her time of acting as part of Jack the Ripper and she continued to reside in her realm. Yet, there’s another key difference between Grell and Undertaker.
This is precisely how Ronald first identified Undertaker as a deserter. It’s also interesting if you look at the second musicial. When Alan decides to run off with Eric, they both leave their glasses. It’s a beautiful, symbolic scene, but the practical side of me couldn’t help but think it was foolish. The chances were high that they would run into other shinigami or Sebastian again and ensuring you’d be half blind when you did so doesn’t make a lot of sense. Shouldn’t just running away be enough?
The glasses are their shackles. This is what keeps them bound to their realm and to their punishment, and there’s fear in losing those glasses. Notice Ronald when he lost his glasses. He panicked. This isn’t just because he has trouble seeing, but this was like him losing 'sight’ of his own redemption.
What’s interesting is that the shinigami who do give up their glasses don’t seem to have that much trouble after some time. Undertaker brags, and teases Ronald for being 'green' for relying on his eyes. Perhaps this is because he’s had years of practice, but the same cannot be said for Alan and Eric. They do face Sebastian again, and their eyesight doesn’t seem to hinder them all that much. Eric isn’t just swinging wildly at Sebastian.
The glasses are so much more than just a means to help them see. These are the chains trying them to their punishment as well as their means to escape. William was right. They need to take good care of their glasses.