Tuesday, July 29, 2014

For Your Eyes Only | "For Your Eyes Only"

The final story (chronologically) in For Your Eyes Only is the one that gives the collection its name. It's also the only one that made its debut in the collected volume, not having been published anywhere else previously.

Fans of the film For Your Eyes Only will recognize the story of a young woman who goes looking for revenge against the man who killed her parents. In the film it's Malina Havelock with her crossbow, but in Fleming's story she's Judy Havelock and prefers a traditional bow.

Bond is involved because M was a close friend of the Havelocks and even served as best man at their wedding. There are shades of Moonraker here as M uncomfortably navigates the ethical dilemma of using a government agent in what could be construed as a personal vendetta, especially since the Havelock mission involves outright assassination instead of just beating a cheater at cards. There's a wonderful scene though where M is absolutely stuck and puts Bond in the unfair predicament of making the decision. Bond gallantly suggests that assassination is the logical, impersonal response to a foreign agent who murders British citizens on British soil. Easily the best relationship in the entire Bond series is the one between Bond and his boss. It's very much a relationship between father and son, though with plenty of Stiff Upper Lip to keep it from getting sappy.

In the course of their conversation, the topic of Bond's toughness comes up. Bond truly does have to sacrifice something when he volunteers to kill the Havelocks' murderer. He's not used to those kinds of decisions and he stammers quite a bit as he tries to support M in such unfamiliar territory. Bond says that he's able to withstand all kinds of hardship "if I have to and I think it's right, sir." He realizes that's a weak answer and continues, even more lamely, "I mean ... if the cause is - er - sort of just, sir." In the end, I got the feeling that Bond volunteers not because he's 100% convinced it's the right thing to do, but because he's 100% convinced that that's what M wants. It's a beautiful act of selflessness, though one I could easily see the Bond of Live and Let Die doing as easily as the post-Dr No Bond.

Sadly, Bond's relationship with Judy isn't as great. That's an understatement; Judy is a tragedy of a character along the lines of Pussy Galore. She spends most of the story as an amazingly strong and independent woman, but completely melts by the end. With Pussy, it was Bond's manliness that changed her, but with Judy it's just the natural, womanly reaction (according to Fleming) to having killed someone. Bond keeps telling her throughout the story that murder is "man's work" and the end of the story reinforces that notion as she sobs in his arms and lets him make a woman out of her. Gag.

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