Carl losing his eye in The Walking Dead was a brutal moment in the series, but it actually had a much deeper meaning as it foreshadowed his future.
When Carl Grimes was shot through the head and lost his eye in The Walking Dead series, readers were shocked and horrified as it was unclear at the time whether or not he would survive the gruesome injury. Thankfully, Carl did survive and readers were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Little did fans know, however, that the wound itself wasn’t the darkest aspect of Carl losing his eye, as it also foreshadowed his tragic future.
Carl Grimes made his first full appearance in The Walking Dead #2 by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Carl is the son of Rick Grimes, the main protagonist in The Walking Dead, and was portrayed as a child throughout the entirety of the series until the final issue where he is shown as an adult with a wife and daughter. While Carl spent his formative years fighting for his life against roves of zombies and savage humans alike, he was able to live long enough to see society rebuild itself–but he just wasn’t able to escape the horrors of his past.
In The Walking Dead #193 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, fans are thrown 25 years into the future following the death of Rick Grimes and are met with a world that has all but recovered from the zombie outbreak. Walkers are now regarded as entertainment to people who didn’t experience the horrors of living through the swarms of flesh-eating monsters freely roaming the Earth. When a man with a cart full of zombies enters the town Carl and his family live in, Carl decides to slaughter the walkers so their disease can’t spread throughout the newfound society. However, the zombies are technically that man’s property, and since he sells tickets for people to see them, the walkers are also his main source of income. So, Carl is brought to court and forced to trek across the country and replace the zombies he’s killed, and he goes on this journey with an old friend, Lydia.
During Carl and Lydia’s travels, the two make camp and decide to sleep in the same tent for protection. Before falling asleep, Lydia comments on the fact that Carl hasn’t taken off his eyepatch and asks if he feels the need to hide his wound because he is ashamed of it. Carl tells Lydia that he isn’t ashamed, but that he wears the eyepatch at all times to hide his injury from his daughter, Andrea. Andrea was born in a post-outbreak world after The Walking Dead‘s zombies were all but eradicated, so she doesn’t know of the hellish world Carl was forced to grow up in, and he wants to keep it that way. Upon this interaction, it becomes clear that Carl’s physical injury is a metaphor for his spiritual injury as well as his internal struggle with adapting to modern society. Carl will always be damaged by what he lived through, and while he wants to keep his daughter safe, he will never get over what happened as it has permanently changed him, both physically and mentally.
Using physical wounds as a metaphor for internal turmoil is nothing new in fiction, but this example is especially profound. The Walking Dead established Carl’s future struggles long before the final issue of the series with an injury that was seemingly done for shock value, but actually had a much deeper meaning all along. Carl Grimes losing his eye as a child in The Walking Dead effectively set up the fact that he would not only survive the apocalypse, but he would continue to wear the horrors of what he went through for the rest of his life.
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