The Bloody Chamber

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Bloody Chambers Symbol Analysis

Bloody Chambers Symbol Icon
Each of the book’s ten tales contains some kind of “bloody chamber,” though the most obvious is the torture room of the titular story. The bloody chamber is a place of both violence and enlightenment, as the first heroine discovers the true nature of her husband’s desires and her own inevitable fate in this room. Other “bloody chambers” include the Beast’s room in “The Tiger’s Bride,” the blood-filled hole in “The Snow Child,” and the grandmother’s house in “The Werewolf” and “The Company of Wolves.” The combination of violence and enlightenment in these places usually takes a sexual form, as in the first bloody chamber the torture is part of the Marquis’ sadistic desires. Because of this, the “bloody chambers” of the book act as symbols of a woman’s vagina or womb, and the blood is associated with menstruation or the loss of virginity. Throughout the stories Carter associates sexual awakening with violence, but also with a kind of enlightenment or transformation, as in the chamber of “The Company of Wolves,” where the girl changes from victim to devourer through seducing the wolf. Thus the “bloody chamber” of a woman’s body becomes the site of both oppression and metamorphosis.

Bloody Chambers Quotes in The Bloody Chamber

The The Bloody Chamber quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bloody Chambers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
). 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

“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.

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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.

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Bloody Chambers Symbol Timeline in The Bloody Chamber

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bloody Chambers appears in The Bloody Chamber. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Bloody Chamber
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...heroine lights another match and approaches a huge, ornate coffin at the center of the torture chamber . Inside she sees the embalmed body of the opera singer, the Marquis’ first wife.... (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...women. She picks up the key and flees the bloody chamber. She runs through the house, afraid to return to the bedroom and not trusting any of the servants or even... (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
The heroine is suddenly overcome by her revelation in the “ bloody chamber ” and Jean-Yves’ innocent humanity, and she faints. When she awakes Jean-Yves tends to her,... (full context)
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...of it to charity. The castle is now a school for the blind, and the bloody chamber has been sealed and buried. The heroine has started a music school outside Paris, and... (full context)
The Tiger’s Bride
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
The heroine finds her way to The Beast’s room and knocks on his door. There is no answer, but the valet appears, naked himself... (full context)
Puss-in-Boots
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
...ushers the two inside, sneezing at Figaro and saying the rats are in her mistress’s room. They all go into the young woman’s room and the master pretends there is a... (full context)
The Snow Child
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
...snow and wishes for a “girl as white as snow.” Then they come to a hole in the snow filled with blood , and the Count wishes for a “girl as red as blood.” Then the Count... (full context)
The Company of Wolves
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...the huntsman to win the contest and kiss her. Meanwhile the huntsman reaches the grandmother’s house. She is in bed with her Bible when he knocks and she invites him in.... (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...and gets in the bed. The child arrives and the wolf invites her into the room. At first she is disappointed that the huntsman didn’t get their first, but then she... (full context)
Wolf-Alice
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Back in his room the Duke lies on his bed, writhing in pain and caught mid-transformation, neither wholly human... (full context)