The Bloody Chamber

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Bloody Chamber published in 1990.
The Bloody Chamber Quotes

His wedding gift, clasped round my throat. A choker of rubies, two inches wide, like an extraordinarily precious slit throat.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the mysterious Marquis offers the story's Heroine a wedding present: a ruby choker (a tight necklace). The Heroine notes that the choker makes her seem to have a slit throat, and to be bleeding from the neck--a grisly reference to the French Revolution, during which noblemen like the Marquis were beheaded at the guillotine. The Heroine notes that such ironic references to the bloody past are now in vogue among the nobility.

In general, the ruby choker symbolizes the Marquis sadistic tendencies: he clearly desires the Heroine, channeling his feelings into violence and bloodshed. This image of a combination of innocent female beauty, wealthy extravagance, corrupt sexuality, and brutal violence also introduces the general tone and imagery of the story collection.


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I saw him watching me in the gilded mirrors with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh, or even of a housewife in the market, inspecting cuts on the slab. I’d never seen, or else had never acknowledged, that regard of his before… When I saw him look at me with lust, I dropped my eyes but, in glancing away from him, I caught sight of myself in the mirror… I saw how much that cruel necklace became me. And, for the first time in my innocent and confined life, I sensed in myself a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Marquis stares at the Heroine, regarding her as a mere object for his sexual gratification: a toy to be played with. The Marquis stares at the Heroine, even when she's not staring back--the very definition of the "male gaze." Furthermore, the mirrors of the opera house (the setting of this scene) make it seem that the Marquis surrounds the Heroine on all sides, symbolizing his power and total domination.

And yet the passage also suggests that the Heroine herself is somewhat complicit in her own objectification. Unlike many feminist writers of the era, Carter isn't afraid to suggest that a woman can enjoy being sexualized or objectified, and here, the Heroine seems to be getting subtle pleasure out of the way the Marquis treats her. Indeed, she thinks of the Marquis as uncovering her secret, corrupt side--the latent potential of her present innocence and virginity. Things aren't black and white in Carter's stories--they are often undeniably about male oppression and female attempts at liberation, but they also toy with sadism and masochism, and the idea that some kinds of objectification can be sexually attractive.

He stripped me, gourmand that he was, as if he were stripping the leaves off an artichoke… And when nothing but my scarlet, palpitating core remained, I saw, in the mirror, the living image of an etching by Rops… He in his London tailoring; she, bare as a lamb chop. Most pornographic of all confrontations. And so my purchaser unwrapped his bargain. And, as at the opera, when I had first seen my flesh in his eyes, I was aghast to feel myself stirring.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the Marquis has taken the Heroine, his new wife, back to his home. There, he undresses her and prepares to have sex with her for the first time. The Heroine notes that the Marquis "owns" her completely--it's implied that she has no rights, no ways of fighting back against the Marquis. As in the previous passage, she watches herself in the many mirrors on the walls, and again sees herself as an object--here presented as food to be inspected and consumed, an "artichoke" or a "lamb chop."

The passage emphasizes many of the themes of the story collection. The heroine undergoes a "metamorphosis" (as many of the later characters also will) in being stripped of her outer layers to reveal the "palpitating core" within her. Her virginity is also again portrayed as a kind of power and potential, here an opportunity for both violence and pleasure. Finally, the Heroine witnesses her own disempowerment and objectification, but can't help feeling sexually "stirred" by the sight of herself as a "pornographic" image (the man clothed and the woman naked--the ultimate symbol of female objectification and male power). Violence and sexuality are intimately tied together in Carter's stories, but to slip too far in the direction of violence and dehumanization is to risk entering a state of horror and fear.

I stammered foolishly: We’ve not taken luncheon yet; and, besides, it is broad daylight…
All the better to see you.
He made me put on my choker, the family heirloom of one woman who had escaped the blade… Rapt, he intoned: “Of her apparel she retains/Only her sonorous jewellery.”
A dozen husbands impaled a dozen brides while the mewing gulls swung on invisible trapezes in the empty air outside.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Marquis prepares to have sex with the Heroine. He's aroused by the fact that she's a virgin, and can't wait to take her virginity. The Marquis seems to think of the Heroine as a passive part of his own pleasure: he undresses her, and then makes her put on the choker, as if she's a mannequin being arranged on a stage.

The passage uses rich imagery, and even fairy-tale imagery ("The better to see you" comes straight out of "Little Red Riding Hood," often interpreted, including by Carter herself, as a story about sexual seduction) to convey the Heroine's experience. She's surrounded by mirrors, so that she's dominated by the Marquis's presence in all directions (hence the dozen husbands). Furthermore, the Heroine describes the Marquis as "impaling her," conveying the violent nature of his desire for. It's impossible to separate sex and violence in Carter's story: she can't have one without the other.

No. I was not afraid of him; but of myself. I seemed reborn in his unreflective eyes, reborn in unfamiliar shapes. I hardly recognized myself from his descriptions of me and yet, and yet – might there not be a grain of beastly truth in them? And, in the red firelight, I blushed again, unnoticed, to think he might have chosen me because, in my innocence, he sensed a rare talent for corruption.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Immediately after losing her virginity to the Marquis, the Heroine feels that she's been  "reborn." She describes looking at herself in the "mirror" of her husband's eyes and not knowing herself: it's as if the Marquis has unleashed an inner wildness and corruption in the previously virginal and innocent Heroine, which she's now forced to confront.

The passage suggests the possibility that the Heroine somewhat enjoys being abused and objectified by her husband--a possibility that shocked many feminists of the day. Although the Marquis seems to treat the Heroine as an object, she has also internalized a similar view--she sees herself as passive and virginal, and only now that she is "corrupted" she seems reborn into a new state of sexuality and violence.

“There is a striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of a torturer,” opined my husband’s favourite poet; I had learned something of the nature of that similarity on my marriage bed. And now my taper showed me the outlines of a rack. There was also a great wheel… And – just one glimpse of it before my little flame caved in and I was left in absolute darkness – a metal figure, hinged at the side, which I knew to be spiked on the inside and to have the name: the Iron Maiden.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis
Related Symbols: Bloody Chambers
Page Number: 27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Heroine has snuck into the secret lair of the Marquis's house: the "Bloody Chamber" of the title. There, she realizes the truth about her husband. The Marquis is not just a sexually experienced, powerful man who objectifies women and collects violent pornography--he is also a literal sadist and murderer, who has tortured and killed all his previous wives. (This scene more exactly echoes the legend of Bluebeard, which this story is based upon.) The quote from the Marquis' "favourite poet" (Charles Baudelaire, though he is unnamed here--a French poet known for his subjects of decadence, sexuality, ennui, and morbidity) makes clear the connection between violence and sexuality, a theme that will be explored in all the stories of the collection. This "bloody chamber," then, is the place where the two ideas come together most literally.

But because it's here that the Heroine learns the truth about her husband, the bloody chamber is not just a place of horror but also one of enlightenment--symbolized, perhaps, by the Heroine's tiny, pathetic flame. In the past, the Heroine has felt a strange connection with the Marquis, as if her own strains of masochism and the Marquis's sadism brings them together. And yet here, she comes to realize that the Marquis's sadism always destroys his wives in the end: the Heroine can't stay with the Marquis any longer and hope to live.

On her eighteenth birthday, my mother had disposed of a man-eating tiger that ravaged the villages in the hills north of Hanoi. Now, without a moment’s hesitation, she raised my father’s gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband’s head.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Bloody Chamber) (speaker), The Marquis , Heroine’s Mother
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

In the climax of the short story, the Heroine's mother emerges from the background to protect her daughter from the threats of the Marquis. The Marquis is about to execute the Heroine, but at that moment the Mother arrives and shoots the Marquis in the head.

Carter here changes the traditional story of Bluebeard to make her version more unabashedly feminist and inspiring. In the original tale, the Heroine would have been rescued by her brothers, but in this ending the "hero" rescuing the "damsel in distress" is another woman--and furthermore, a woman with experience killing "beasts" (like the tiger, and like other Beasts in later stories of the collection) and asserting herself powerfully. The mother appears only briefly, but she is an inspiring figure, like one of Carter's young heroines all grown up.

The Courtship of Mr Lyon Quotes

How strange he was. She found his bewildering difference from herself almost intolerable; its presence choked her. There seemed a heavy, soundless pressure upon her in his house, as if it lay under water, and when she saw the great paws lying on the arm of his chair, she thought: they are the death of any tender herbivore. And such a one she felt herself to be, Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial.

Related Characters: The Beast (The Courtship of Mr. Lyon), Beauty
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

This next story is one of two based on the fairy-tale "Beauty and the Beast." Here Beauty has come to live with the titular Beast. The Beast, later Mr. Lyon, is an intimidating, wild-looking creature, frightening to any "herbivores" (which the virginal, harmless heroine considers herself to be, no matter what she might actually eat). In this passage, Beauty has taken her father's place in the Beast's home, as punishment for her father's decision to steal a rose from the Beast. Beauty feels that she's a helpless object, a sacrificial lamb to be consumed by the Beast: she's sacrificed herself to free her father, after all.

The Beast sunk his great head on to his paws. You will come back to me? It will be lonely here, without you.
She was moved almost to tears that he should care for her so. It was in her heart to drop a kiss upon his shaggy mane but, though she stretched out her hand towards him, she could not bring herself to touch him of her own free will, he was so different from herself. But, yes, she said; I will come back. Soon, before the winter is over.

Related Characters: The Beast (The Courtship of Mr. Lyon) (speaker), Beauty (speaker), The Beast (The Courtship of Mr. Lyon), Beauty
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Beauty plans to leave the Beast to visit her father, whose legal troubles are over. The Beast is devastated that Beauty wants to leave: he's lonely in his home, and wants her as a companion. Beauty promises to return to the Beast at some point in the future, as they've now forged a strong bond in their time together. She seems sympathetic to the Beast's loneliness, and yet she can't entirely force herself to show her physical compassion for him. The Beast is so ugly and frightening-looking that she doesn't want to kiss him.

The passage shows Beauty in a halfway point in her relationship with the Beast. By the end of the story, she'll have conquered her own aversions and kissed him--but this connection will require a metamorphosis of some kind. For now, however, Beauty seems somehow insensitive and selfish for leaving the Beast so readily (and when she reunites with her father, she doesn't return to the Beast for a long time).

She flung herself upon him, so that the iron bedstead groaned, and covered his poor paws with her kisses.
“Don’t die, Beast! If you’ll have me, I’ll never leave you.” When her lips touched the meat-hook claws, they drew back into their pads and she saw how he had always kept his fists clenched but now, painfully, tentatively, at last began to stretch his fingers. Her tears fell on his face like snow and, under their soft transformation, the bones showed through the pelt, the flesh through the wide, tawny brow. And then it was no longer a lion in her arms but a man…

Related Characters: Beauty (speaker), The Beast (The Courtship of Mr. Lyon), Beauty
Page Number: 50-51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, a sly subversion of the "Beauty and the Beast" story, Beauty returns to the Beast and finds herself full of sympathy and love for her old companion. The Beast seems to be dying of loneliness, and Beauty promises to love the Beast forever. She kisses his paws, only to notice that they've transformed into hands--the Beast has been transformed into a human being, thanks to the power of Beauty's love. (The image of his claws and paws as just being "clenched fists" that are now finally opening is also a lovely one, blending the animal and human as Carter often does.)

The Tiger’s Bride Quotes

And The Beast gave me the rose from his own impeccable if outmoded buttonhole when he arrived, the valet brushing the snow off his black cloak. This white rose, unnatural, out of season, that now my nervous fingers ripped, petal by petal, apart as my father magnificently concluded the career he had made of catastrophe.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Tiger's Bride) (speaker), The Beast (The Tiger's Bride)
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

In this story, a kind of inversion of the previous one (but another re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast), the Heroine watches as her father gambles away all his money to the Beast. The Beast gives the Heroine a white rose, which the Heroine nervously rips apart, reflecting her father's plummeting fortunes (and also calls back to the first story, where the Marquis stripped away the Heroine's clothes like the leaves of an artichoke). Soon, we sense, the father will be forced to gamble away the Heroine herself.

Now that we're at the third story, it's clear that certain images, characters, and motifs will reappear in different manifestations throughout the book: roses, beasts, virgins, etc. Carter changes the significance of such objects and characters, however: here, it's not that the Heroine sacrifices herself for her father, as in the previous story; rather, the father selfishly gives up his own child to please the Beast. The Heroine's frantic ripping might symbolize the loss of her innocence and virginity: as we'll see, her time with the Beast will bring out her inner wildness.

The valet held out his master’s cloak to screen him from me as he removed the mask. The horses stirred.
The tiger will never lie down with the lamb; he acknowledges no pact that is not reciprocal. The lamb must learn to run with the tigers.
A great, feline, tawny shape whose pelt was barred with a savage geometry of bars the colour of burned wood. His domed, heavy head, so terrible he must hide… I felt my breast ripped apart as if I suffered a marvelous wound.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Tiger's Bride) (speaker), The Beast (The Tiger's Bride), Valet
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

The Beast, now the "owner" of the Heroine, has repeatedly asked to see the Heroine naked--but she has refused. Here, the Beast responds by saying that the Heroine must then see the Beast naked. He then strips off his own clothes, revealing his true nature. Carter builds the suspense by describing the way the valet (also seemingly an animal in disguise) hides the Beast, and noting that the horses are stirring. When the Beast has removed his clothes, it's clear that he's really a tiger. The Heroine, metaphorically, is a sweet, virginal lamb--a creature that simply doesn't get along with tigers.

Can tigers and lambs get along? Carter gives us the sense that the Beast's wildness and savage beauty is inspiring the Heroine to be wild, too--to cast aside her lamb-like demeanor and reveal herself as a new being. The final lines suggest that the Heroine, too, is "stirring," as Carter again equates sexuality and violence in a single phrase.

He dragged himself closer and closer to me, until I felt the harsh velvet of his head against my hand, then a tongue, abrasive as sandpaper. “He will lick the skin off me!”
And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shining hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Tiger's Bride) (speaker), The Beast (The Tiger's Bride)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this lyrical, dreamlike passage, the Beast turns the Heroine into a tiger, just like himself--an inversion of the previous story and of the legend of Beauty and the Beast (both of which involve the Beast becoming a man, rather than the Beauty becoming a Beast). Here the Beast licks the Heroine's skin--an unmistakably sexual act--until it tears off, revealing the tiger that was "hidden" within the Heroine all along. It's important to note that the Beast hasn't really changed the Heroine at all; he's just unlocked her potential.

At the beginning of the story, the Heroine seemed quiet and shy--now, the Beast seems to have saved her from her own repression, teaching her how to be powerful and independent. He's violent with her, and yet his violence might be justified by the end result. The Beast, a man, is still very much the actor in the story: the Heroine, a woman, is more passive, waiting to be transformed into something better. We also have the usual elements of Carter's stories in this scene--a transformation, layers being stripped away, and a conflation of sexuality, violence, and liberation.

Puss-in-Boots Quotes

“Let’s get him to a softer bed,” says Master.
He ups the corpse, carries it aloft to the room we know full well, bumps Pantaloon down, twitches an eyelid, taps a kneecap, feels a pulse.
“Dead as a doornail,” he pronounces. “It’s not a doctor you want, it’s an undertaker.”
Missus has a handkerchief very dutifully and correctly to her eyes.
“You just run along and get one,” she says to hag. “And then I’ll read the will. Because don’t think he’s forgotten you…”
So off goes hag; you never saw a woman of her accumulated Christmases sprint so fast. As soon as they are left alone, no trifling, this time; they’re at it, hammer and tongs, down on the carpet since the bed is occupé.

Related Characters: Figaro (speaker), Master (speaker), Young Woman (speaker), Hag , Signor Panteleone
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In this story, the tone changes drastically, though the themes remain generally the same. By now, Puss's Master has finally gotten what he wants: his lover's husband, Signor Panteleone, has tripped and fallen to his death, leaving the lover free to marry the Master. The Master and his lover quickly get everyone out of the house, save for Signor Panteleone himself, who's lying dead in bed. Then, the two lovers proceed to have sex on the carpet (since the bed is "occupé," or occupied, albeit by a corpse).

The short story comes to an end with the indelible image of two people making love next to the body of one of the lovers' dead husband. Though this story is in a very different tone than most of the others, this scene still intimately connects sex with violence, and love with death.

The Erl-King Quotes

In the evenings when the cold darkness settles down, I always go to the Erl-King and he lays me down on his bed of rustling straw where I lie at the mercy of his huge hands.
He is the tender butcher who showed me how the price of flesh is love; skin the rabbit, he says! Off come all my clothes.

Related Characters: The Erl-King (speaker), Heroine (The Erl-King) (speaker)
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

In this story, the Heroine has become the live-in lover of the Erl-King, a powerful elfish figure who lives in the forest. Like so may of the women in Carter's short story collection, the Heroine seems simultaneously attracted to and repelled by the Erl-King: she enjoys the feeling of domination (being treated like a "piece of meat"), and yet also finds his brutality and objectification repellent. Carter sums up the Heroine's attitude toward the Erl-King with one oxymoronic phrase: "tender butcher."

As in several other stories involving "metamorphoses," the Erl-King seems to be singularly fixated on removing "layers"--an act that's both liberating and violent. He gets pleasure from stripping away clothes skin, fur, etc. The Heroine likewise seems to enjoy the Erl-King's actions, and yet also recognizes how dangerous they can be.

When I realized what the Erl-King meant to do to me, I was shaken with a terrible fear and did not know what to do for I loved him with all my heart and yet I had no wish to join the whistling congregation he kept in his cages… His embraces were his enticements and yet, oh yet! they were the branches of which the trap itself was woven. But in his innocence he never knew he might be the death of me, although I knew from the first moment I saw him how Erl-King would do me grievous harm.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Erl-King) (speaker), The Erl-King
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Heroine becomes aware that the birds the Erl-King keeps in cages are actually past lovers of his: if the Heroine stays with the Erl-King for any longer he'll surely transform her into an animal. And Carter's choice of animal is no coincidence: birds in cages are traditional symbols of women being stifled and kept under a man's control.

The Heroine is conflicted in her feelings toward the Erl-King: she really does love him, and yet she values her freedom more highly than her love. She seems to find something inevitable about her falling-out with the Erl-King: indeed, she claims to have recognized that he was trouble from the very beginning. It's worth noticing that in this story, the Heroine is more active than in many of the previous stories: she's a character with agency, journeying to and from the forest and fighting against the allure of domesticity and male domination (i.e., being a bird in a cage).

I shall take two huge handfuls of his rustling hair as he lies half dreaming, half waking, and wind them into ropes, very softly, so he will not wake up, and, softly, with hands as gentle as rain, I shall strangle him with them.
Then she will open all the cages and let the birds free; they will change back into young girls, every one, each with the crimson imprint of his love-bite on their throats.

Related Characters: Heroine (The Erl-King) (speaker), The Erl-King
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're told how the Heroine strangles the Erl-King with his own hair--an allusion, perhaps, to the Biblical story of Samson, another tale about a man's downfall caused by hair (and a woman). The Heroine's act of murder is both brutal and tender; it's as if she's making love to him one last time, rather than choosing to spend the rest of her days in a cage.

The passage is surprising in that it transitions back and forth between the present and future tenses, and between the first and second persons. It's as if the ferocity of the Heroine's feelings about the Erl-King are shattering her own consciousness, causing a kind of out-of-body experience--or else that Carter is delving deeper into the singsong, fairy-tale world of her stories. Furthermore, the disjointedness of the passage makes us wonder if the Heroine ever actually kills the Erl-King, or if she's only imagining a murder, from the security of a birdcage. Even in this passage, when the Heroine is dominating the Erl-King, the conditional syntax suggests the Heroine's weakness and hesitation (echoing the freed women, who still retain the Erl-King's "love-bite"), making us wonder how complete her rebellion is.

The Lady of the House of Love Quotes

He has the special quality of virginity, most and least ambiguous of states: ignorance, yet at the same time, power in potentia, and, furthermore, unknowingness, which is not the same as ignorance. He is more than he knows – and has about him, besides, the special glamour of that generation for whom history has already prepared a special, exemplary fate in the trenches of France. This being, rooted in change and time, is about to collide with the timeless Gothic eternity of the vampires, for whom all is as it has always been and will be, whose cards always fall in the same pattern.

Related Characters: The Countess (The Lady of the House of Love), Young Man (The Lady of the House of Love)
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the vampirish Countess's future victim, a Young Man, enters the story. The Man is virginal, historical rather than fantastical (he will later die in World War I), and intensely rational. And yet the Young Man, in encountering the Countess, is about to be sucked back into the past, into Carter's fairy-tale world of sex, magic, and violence, in which time is an illusion.

There are a few things worth noting here. First, Carter alludes to real historical events (WWI) and purposefully has them collide with the timeless fairy tales she has been reinventing. Second, the roles of men and women are somewhat reversed in this story, as the Young Man is the innocent, virginal "hero" about to encounter the sexual and violent "Beast" (the vampiric Lady). Third, Carter here reiterates the power of virginity as a concept--rather than just being a kind of blankness or ignorance, virginity has its own power in its potential, in its innocence and purity.

Owls shriek; the impedimenta of her condition squeak and gibber all around us. Now you are at the place of annihilation, now you are at the place of annihilation. She turns her head away from the blue beams of his eyes; she knows no other consummation than the only one she can offer him. She has not eaten for three days. It is dinner-time. It is bedtime.

Related Characters: The Countess (The Lady of the House of Love), Young Man (The Lady of the House of Love)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Countess feels the anticipation of the moment: soon, she's going to seduce and kill the Young Man, as she has always done. Carter associates the Countess's seduction with nothingness itself: she's going to annihilate the Young Man (and the sudden change of tense to second-person makes this encounter especially poignant and powerful). It's important to distinguish the Countess's seduction from some of the others in the book: unlike the Beast who shows the Heroine how to be a tiger, the Countess won't be adding anything to or revealing anything within her virginal victim; she'll just be annihilating him. The final lines of the passage also make clear once again how sex and violence, love and death are intricately intertwined. To the Lady, they are exactly the same--dinnertime is bedtime.

She is not sleeping.
In death, she looked far older, less beautiful and so, for the first time, fully human.
I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness. And I leave you as a souvenir the dark, fanged rose I plucked from between my thighs, like a flower laid on a grave. On a grave.

Related Characters: The Countess (The Lady of the House of Love) (speaker), The Countess (The Lady of the House of Love)
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

Here the Young Man discovers that the Countess has been transformed into a mortal woman, and has died. The night before, she had her own blood sucked, reversing her vampirish identity and giving her the ambiguous "gift" of mortality. There is then another lyrical change of tense, as the narrator assumes the voice of the dead Countess, speaking once more in the second-person from beyond the grave (but with a universal, poetic voice that could come from many of the characters in the story sequence.) In the final lines the Countess doesn't seem angry with the Young Man for bringing death to her; on the contrary, she leaves him a strange memento of their time together--"a dark, fanged rose I plucked from between my thighs." In this brief image Carter condenses many of her themes and motifs: beauty, death, sex, virginity, violence, and roses.

The Company of Wolves Quotes

She stands and moves within the invisible pentacle of her own virginity. She is an unbroken egg; she is a sealed vessel; she has inside her a magic space the entrance to which is shut tight with a plug of membrane; she is a closed system; she does not know how to shiver. She has her knife and she is afraid of nothing.

Related Characters: Child (The Company of Wolves)
Related Symbols: Bloody Chambers
Page Number: 113
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, we're introduced to the heroine of this short story, the child. The child, like most of Carter's heroines, is a virgin; furthermore, she thinks of her youth and virginity as sources of power, rather than weaknesses. Virginity, its own kind of "chamber," as described here, will protect the child--or so she thinks--during her journey through the dark, dangerous forest. (This also echoes Carter's description of the Young Man's virginity in "The Lady of the House of Love.")

The passage is interesting in the way that it subverts various stereotypes of femininity and weakness. The child is a virgin, and yet she seems empowered by her own virginity; she's an innocent girl, and yet she carries a phallic, violent knife. In short, the child is at once mature and immature, a mess of contradictions and ambiguities--like most of the book's heroines.

Every wolf in the world now howled a prothalamion outside the window as she freely gave the kiss she owed him.
What big teeth you have!…
All the better to eat you with.
The girl burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat. She laughed at him full in the face, she ripped off his shirt for him and flung it into the fire, in the fiery wake of her own discarded clothing…
Carnivore incarnate, only immaculate flesh appeases him.

Related Characters: Child (The Company of Wolves) (speaker), Huntsman (speaker)
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the story, the child (a version of Little Red Riding-Hood) arrives at her grandmother's house and finds the wolf, waiting in bed, disguised as her own grandmother, as other wolves howl a "prothalamion" (a celebration of a marriage) outside. In this retelling, the child isn't fooled or frightened in the slightest: she recognizes the wolf for what he is. And yet the child seems to play along with the wolf's charade: she praises the wolf, and freely offers the kiss he asks for. And when it's time for the wolf to "eat" her, the child instead seduces the wolf, using her confidence and sexuality to conquer him. Unlike the heroines of other previous stories, who are described in terms of food or meat, the child knows she is "nobody's meat."

The passage shows the child using her sexuality and femininity as weapons--asserting her own agency and independence. With sexuality, the child saves her own life; furthermore, she seems to be genuinely enjoying herself, savoring the danger of having sex with a carnivorous wolf. As in some of the other stories in the book, the child emerges victorious by undergoing a metamorphosis into a "wolf" herself; i.e., by transforming from a virgin into a sexualized, "man-eating" beast.

It is Christmas Day, the werewolves’ birthday, the door of the solstice stands wide open; let them all sink through.
See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.

Related Characters: Child (The Company of Wolves), Huntsman
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

The story ends on Christmas Day, with the child and the wolf sitting in bed together. In yet another kind of transformation, the wolf has become a calm, domesticated creature, with "paws" instead of claws, and a "tender" demeanor (recalling the earlier description of the Erl-King as a "tender butcher). By the same token, the child has changed from a shy, virginal girl to a wolfish, sexualized young woman who knows how to assert herself confidently.

The passage suggests that the child and the wolf have reached a kind of pact, meeting each other halfway. The strongest relationship, Carter suggests, is always a "meeting halfway"--as in the book's other stories, the beast might become a human, but the human must also become something of the beast. Furthermore, the passage reiterates some of the images of "Puss in Boots" by showing the characters making love in a dead woman's bed--the thrill of death seems to make the characters' lust more intense.

Wolf-Alice Quotes

The wolves had tended her because they knew she was an imperfect wolf; we secluded her in animal privacy out of fear of her imperfection because it showed us what we might have been, and so time passed, although she scarcely knew it. Then she began to bleed.

Related Characters: Wolf-Alice
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we meet "Wolf-Alice" after she has already been raised by wolves, and then "rescued" by humans. The nuns who find her seek to raise her, but then she begins to "bleed" (menstruate), and they decide to give her up to the Duke, a werewolf.

As in most of the stories in the book, a kind of metamorphosis is a central aspect of "Wolf-Alice." At this point, Alice is in a transition state--not a wolf, but not a true human either. This is then connected to her menstruation as another transition state, one involving both sex and violence (blood); she is becoming a woman, and virginity is giving way to sexuality. It's especially notable that Alice is staying with nuns--who embrace virginity and chastity and fear sexuality--and they only give her up once she begins to "bleed."

Poor, wounded thing… locked half and half between such strange states, an aborted transformation, an incomplete mystery, now he lies writhing on his black bed like a Mycenaean tomb, howls like a wolf with his foot in a trap or a woman in labour, and bleeds.

Related Characters: Wolf-Alice, The Duke
Page Number: 126
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the story (the last in the book), the Duke, a werewolf, has been shot. He lies in bed, wounded, caught halfway between wolf and man. Carter notes the feminized aspects of his character: he looks like a woman giving birth, and he "bleeds" like a menstruating woman (as Alice was described earlier in the story). To be caught halfway between wolf and man, then, is also to be caught halfway between man and woman.

Like many of the characters in the book, the Duke is an androgynous character: even at his most hyper-masculine, Carter portrays him using feminizing language. Because of Wolf-Alice, the Duke will eventually transform toward the human, masculine side of his being, and yet here, he's caught halfway--man and woman, human and wolf.

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