The red room is a forgotten bedroom in the servants’ quarters of René and Isabelle Azaire’s home, and it is symbolic of the forbidden love between Isabelle and protagonist Stephen Wraysford. The room, named for the crimson cover that decorates the bed, is where Stephen and Isabelle realize their love, and it is where they make plans to run away together. In the Azaires’ massive home, Stephen is constantly getting turned around and lost on the way to dinner, but he never forgets where the red room is. Ironically, after Isabelle and Stephen admit their affair and run away, René turns the house upside down looking for evidence of their love but forgets all about the red room. In a way, Stephen and Isabelle’s love is protected by the room. Of course, their love doesn’t last and Isabelle leaves Stephen heartbroken, but neither of them ever forget their passionate afternoons in the room. Years later, after the war nearly kills them all, the Azaires’ home takes heavy shellfire. Isabelle is disfigured and paralyzed in the attack, and the red room, much like Stephen and Isabelle’s love, is destroyed beyond repair.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Red Room appears in Birdsong. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part One: France 1910
Part Four: France 1917