The Bloody Chamber

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Roses Symbol Icon
Roses appear in most of the stories of The Bloody Chamber, and they generally symbolize the female heroine of each tale. The rose is a traditional romantic image, a symbol of female purity and the vagina, and the repetitive use of the rose image reflects the book’s gothic tone and archetypal characters. The rose as a symbol of femininity becomes more complex in Carter’s stories, however, as it initially acts as a sign of virginity and purity – Beauty’s father picks a white rose for her in “The Courtship of Mr Lyon” – but the very act of “symbolizing” then becomes a symbol of objectification. When the women of the book are objectified by male power and sexual oppression, they have no more agency than a beautiful but powerless rose. In “The Tiger’s Bride” and “The Snow Child,” however, the thorns of the rose prick the heroine’s finger. This shows the suffering brought about by being objectified (usually through sexual violence), but it also implies some agency in the heroines themselves. They are symbolized by the pure, beautiful rose, but they also have thorns and can “bite.”

Roses Quotes in The Bloody Chamber

The The Bloody Chamber quotes below all refer to the symbol of Roses. 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 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.

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The Lady of the House of Love Quotes

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.

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Roses Symbol Timeline in The Bloody Chamber

The timeline below shows where the symbol Roses appears in The Bloody Chamber. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Courtship of Mr Lyon
Virginity Theme Icon
...He doesn’t even have enough money to pay for gas or to buy a white rose for Beauty, the one gift she had requested. (full context)
Virginity Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
The father begs the Beast’s forgiveness, saying the rose was for his daughter, and he shows the Beast a picture of Beauty. Observing Beauty’s... (full context)
Virginity Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...starts to seem like a magical place in another life. Beauty sometimes sends him white roses, but because the seasons never seem to change in London she doesn’t notice that winter... (full context)
The Tiger’s Bride
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...her past – she was born on Christmas day, and her nurse called her “Christmas rose.” Her mother died when she was young, exhausted of her husband’s gambling and womanizing. Back... (full context)
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...flee with them to “the kingdom of horses.” Her father cries and asks for a rose to show that she has forgiven him. The heroine gives him a rose, but she... (full context)
The Snow Child
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...girl’s feet. Now the Countess is naked and the girl clothed. They come to a rosebush and the Countess tells the girl to pick her a rose, and the Count agrees.... (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...he is done she melts and returns to a bloodstain, a raven’s feather, and the rose. The clothes return to the Countess. The Count hands the rose to the Countess, but... (full context)
The Lady of the House of Love
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
...follow her. As he leaves the village he is overcome by the strong scent of roses. They are everywhere, and “obscene in their excess.” (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
Power and Objectification Theme Icon
...he will bleed on her “inverted marriage bed.” Then he will be buried under her roses, feeding their rich color and scent. (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
Virginity Theme Icon
Metamorphosis Theme Icon
...sitting dead at her table, slumped over the Tarot cards. She is holding a last rose for him, and he takes it. The governess then appears and sends the young man... (full context)
Sexuality and Violence Theme Icon
...join his regiment and he leaves Romania. Later he discovers he still has the Countess’s rose in his jacket, and that it isn’t dead yet. Remembering the girl’s “unexpected and pathetic”... (full context)