The Bloody Chamber story summaries, analysis and quotes

  • Created by: Saoirse
  • Created on: 05-06-14 11:50

Key Issues


All tales revolve around death and love; treachery and cruelty; redemption and salvation; and most of all - the possibilty of change. Nearly all tales are set in a European winter landscape signifying the bleakness and hardship of life. Carter's eccentricity gives powerful possibilities of transformation which brings hope and strength to the women in the tales

Gender, Class and Power

  • Carter's tales explore sexulality but not present stereotypical feminist views of women as either heroic figures fighting against, or passive victims of patriachal dominance.
  • Issues of class and power are present in Carter's stories but not idealised in the same ways as the traditional tales in which they are drawn.
    • Aristocratic male characters are defined by stereotypes of power, greed and cruelty associated with privilege
    • Carter's female characters are often their victims
    • Stories are structured by the resolving of this power imbalance
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Settings (1)

Long ago and far away

Settings are largely borrowed from the tales that inspired the collection. They create a sense of distance for the reader, putting the characters in a place where anything is possible. The more comtemporary elements which Carter has introduced stand out against this traditional backdrop and clearly draw the readers' attention.


A significant number of tales are set in the cold, harsh winter - a time when wealth matters in order to survive. The mystival atmosphere of this perpetual winter variously suggests the emotional coldness of the lonely Mr.Lyon, the harshness of peasant life in The Werewolf and provides the very stuff of which the Snow Child is made

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Settings (2)

The Castle

The doman of the rich and powerful as well as a place of imprisonment in which a captive can be held. It is a world of secret places, chambers, towers and tunnels. These sexual metaphors - suggestively the male and female reproductive organs, are neither accidental or masked in the collection.

The Countess in 'The Lady of the House of Love' lives her eternal life in a "chateau" ironically suggesting the romance implied in the title but not realised in the story.

The Forest

The forest is interpreted as the essence of nature: wild and unpredictable - a place beyond civilisation. A metaphor for the most dangerous of journeys, experiences and life events, she suggests that the forest will devour you if you stray from the path - perhaps the path of righteousness or the path of good sense.

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The Gothic

  • Imagery of blood and passion
  • Overwhelming forces of nature 
  • Supernatural beings
  • Shuddering anticipation of horrific events
  • Gothic arctitecture of castles, towers and secret passageways 
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The Bloody Chamber Synopsis

The journey: Young bride on a train travelling to her new husband's castle. It establishes her relationship with her husband, and the contrast between her former life in the French capital and the opulence of her new circumstances. Takes place around the nineteenth century.

Arrival: Bride arrives at matrimonial home in a remote part of Brittany. We focus on her discomfort as she learns more of her husband's taste for ***********, and her fear as her husband takes her to his marital bed. Husband's taste for images of sexual violence is reflected in his treatment of his new wife.

The Keys: Husband called away on business and entrusts her with the keys - including the one to the forbidden room. He tells her he has hired a piano tuner.

The Dilemma: Boredom leads her to search out the true nature of her husband and finds papers of his past which increases her curiousity and she is drawn to the room

The Chamber: Enters the chamber and discovers bodies of the 3 previous wives

The return: Contemplates escape but husband returns and condemns her to death

Ending: Heroic mother enters scene, shooting Marquis and saving her daughter from being beheaded. Daughter is now a rich widow and returns to Paris with her mother and the piano tuner.

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The Bloody Chamber - Marriage


Represented in the symbol of a wedding ring, introduced with a "pang of loss" for her youth and freedom. Female roles are woven into this image with the "gold band" symbolising ownership of the woman.

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The Bloody Chamber - Quotes from the opening

  • The Marquis had been "married three times within my own brief lifetime... he had invited me to join the gallery of beautiful women."
    • Emphasises narrator's youth against her husband's experience
    • Foreshadows the Marquis' view of women and the danger he poses to them
  • The Narrator's marital bedroom is filled with lilies: "The lilies I always associate with him; that are white. And stain you."
    • Imagery of the lilies' apparent purity suggests the narrator's innocence and the Marquis' sexual corruption
    • Lilies are traditionally a symbol of chastity and virtue; to the narrator, however they are "funereal", associated with death
    • Flowers suggest a link to the fairt-tale context, such as the rose in 'Beauty and the Beast'
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The Courtship of Mr Lyon Synopsis

  • A girl worries about her father's safe return in bad weather - his car is stuck and he is a ruined man, unable to provide for his daughter
  • He abandons his car and walks throughthe snow, coming upon a mansion where he finds food and drink but no inhabitants. The local garage will fix his car at the host's expense
  • As he leaves, he sees a rose in the garden, and reminded of his promise to his daughter, he picks it to give to her.
  • A great beast, like a lion but wearing human clothes, appears and challenges the man over the theft. He explains it is for a daughter and the Beast's anger calms when he sees a picture
  • The man has little option but to return to the Beast's house with his daughter as instructed. Her father leaves her with the beast when he goes back to London to take care of his business affairs
  • The beast and the girl share an odd shyness when around eachother but she becomes less afraid of him.
  • Girl's father calls hwe away with the news of his good fortune. She promises she will return before the winter is over but soon forgets about the Beast.
  • Pining for her, the Beast has lost the will to hunt and is starving to death. The Beast's companion, a spaniel, finds the girl and leads her back to the Beast.
  • The girl kisses the Beast and he is transformed from a lion into a man. The ending suggests that they will grow old together
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The Courtship of Mr Lyon Analysis

  • Beauty and the Beast
    • Winter of isolation and isolation rolled into one image - as if she were "made all of snow" which also relate to her purity and virginity which could qualify her to be called 'Beauty'
    • Ending of the story is typical of fairy tales and features the ideal of matrimonial harmony
  • Magic and wealth:
    • the rich are not bound by the "laws of the world" which only apply to the less fortunate
  • Tradition and subversion
    • Connection between "one last, single, perfect rose" and the girl as symbollic images of perfection and pure innocence.
    • "leonine apparition" part man, part lion, is the beast of the fairy tale
    • When Beauty neglects her "sense of obligation" to her father and Beast her good looks are spoiled. Her father's new riches give her "high living and compliments"
  • Interpretation
    • Tale can be seen as least satisfying as it has not been subverted
    • Story of equality: man loses an element of his masculinity, woman loses her independence, yet they each gain eachother. 
    • Can be read that beauty does not gain person she desired: wants beast but gets the man he turns into - moral of people need to recognise that they can't always have what they want
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Courtship of Mr Lyon Quotes

  • Mr Lyon strikes a bargain with Miss Lamb's father: ""Take her the rose then, but bring her to dinner" he growled"
    • Portrays man as an animal - beastly and unpredictable
    • A bargain is agreed, typical feature in fairy tales
  • Miss Lamb agrees to stay with Mr Lyon to restore her father's fortune: "Do not think she had no will of her own... she would gladly gone to the ends of the earth for her father whom she loved dearly."
    • Justifies her agreement to staying with the Beast
    • Carter is at pains to emphasise that Beauty has strength and independence
    • Links to the wider theme of patriachal power and female submission
  • When she realises Mr Lyon is dying, Miss Lamb returns to his house: "It seemed December still possessed his garden."
    • A symbolic, physical representation of the Beast's pining for his love; links to Carter's frequent use of winter settings in these tales
    • Reflects the Beast's response to the lack of love, and of a loved one
    • Implies thatm as his life fades without love, so does the life of his garden and of the earth itself, suggesting that love and life are linked
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The Tiger's Bride Synopsis

  • A Russian nobleman and his daughter travel to an unnamed Italian city
  • The father is a drunken, womanising spendthrift. He plays cards with the mysterious Beast
  • The Beast takes advantage of his foolishness and soon he loses everything. He stakes his daughter's life in hope of recovering his lost fortune. He loses and is crushed.
  • The girl is taken the next morning by The Beast's valet
  • Valet tells the girl that The Beast will repay her father and reward her well for showing herself to him naked. She laughs and mocks the request with a false acceptance. Beast sheds a tear.
  • Girl is presented the next morning with an earring the shape of a teardrop which she refuses to accept. When asked a second time to agree to The Beast's demands, she remains silent. Another tear sheds from the Beast.
  • Next morning another teardrop earring is presented to her and again refuse. She goes out riding with the Beast. He insists that she must see him without his disguising garments.
  • The girl is profoundly moved by the sight of the Beast in animal form and exposes her naked body to him
  • Through a magic mirror the girl sees that her father is wealthy again: Beast kept his word. She decided not to leave the castle, sending the clockwork girl to her father in her place.
  • Girl strips again but wears the earrings to approach The Beast. They turn back to water as The Beast licks her human flesh away to reveal animal fur beneath
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The Tiger's Bride Analysis

  • Setting remains true to the original story
    • Set in a far away place, a long time ago.
    • Distance in both time and space helps the reader to accept the tale
  • Beauty:
    • Girl accepts the Beast as "curiously curious as to the fleshy nature of women" 
    • In deciding not to return to the world of men, the girl realises she has been changed by her experience - in the mirror she sees a "pale hollow-eyed girl whom I scarcely recognise" and compares herself to the clockwork girl "whose face was no longer the spit of my own"
  • Teardrop earrings
    • Can be seen as a coded plea for the girl to take note of his emotional distress
    • Jewellery is more initmate and honest than in 'The Bloody Chamber' as a representation of male emotion rather than controlling lust.
    • The final transformation of the story - reverting to the tears from which they were formed. 
      • Could suggest that male ideas of women will not change until women have changed themselves and become as autonomous and independent as men - especially those who have dropped the mask of masculinity
    • Ending reminds readers that it is a good idea for men and women to see eachother as who they really are and the mutual recognition is the basis of happiness
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The Tiger's Bride Quotes

  • Beauty's father seems to enjoy losing his fortune as he "laughs with glee"
    • Suggests the absence of any paternal care or responsibility
    • A woman, specifically a daughter, is considered an abject of financial value to be bargained with
  • On the appearance of the robot girl, the valet explains "We surround ourselves... with simulacra and find it no less convenient than do most gentlemen."
    • Comments on male attitudes to women: they are painted dolls for men's convenience
    • Suggests that this independent, resourceful girl, in strong contrast, has no place in the world of men
  • Beauty accepts that she must withness The Beast naked: "The lamb must learn to run with the tigers"
    • Characterises men and women with animalistic stereotypes
    • Implies that women must change if they are to challenge male dominance
    • Foreshadows the tale's resolution
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Puss-in-Boots Synopsis

  • Puss-in-Boots agrees to be a servant to a young officer
  • The cat's master falls in love with Signor Panteleone's wife. He serenades her and succeeds in getting her attention. However, further contact is prevented by her chaperone
  • Along with one of Puss's lovers, they plot a scheme to divert the chaperone's attention with a sudden rat infestation
  • Posing as expert rat catchers, the soldier and puss gain admission to the house and the wife sends the chaperone away.
  • Puss keeps up a pretended noise of battle with imaginary rats to disguise the sound of the lovers having sex
  • The soldier is determined to find a way to be with her, so they plot the murder of the husband
  • The cats take control - tabby sends man falling down the stairs and he breaks his neck. Young man poses as a doctor to reunite with his lover
  • With her husband dead and the chaperone under her control, the young widow takes charge of finances to benfit everyone
  • Story concludes with Puss congratulating himself on his talents and failing to recognies that it was the tabby with the best ideas
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Puss-in-Boots Quotes

  • Puss is "proud...of his fine, musical voice. All the windows in the square fly open when I break into impromptu song"
    • Suggests that others do not share Puss' opinion of his voice
    • Puss is selfish and self obsessed
    • Male pride and arrogance are presented as self-deception
  • Puss argues that "love is desire sustained by unfulfilment"
    • Suggests a stereotypical male view to love
    • Attitude of Male cynicism - though contrasted in the attitude of Puss' master
    • Links to the wider themes of love and sexuality
  • On hearing Tabby's suggested plan: "I congratulate her ingenuity with a few affectionate cuffs round the head"
    • Suggests female ingenuity and male resentment of it
    • Stereotypical male response: an inability to show gradtitude, or any emotion, in any way other than physical
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The Erl-King Synopsis

  • A young girl enters the forest and meets with the Erl-King, who transforms young girls into caged birds
  • Despite enjoying the dream like rapture of her time with the Erl-King, the girl resolves to kill him and release the trapped young women


Basic shape of the tale is simple but Carter's narrative is not easily reduce to a chronological account of events. Innovative and experimental narrative form.

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The Erl-King Analysis

  • Opening sentence concernce significance of light in both metaphorical and literal senses and contains an allusion to the poetry of Emily Dickinson
  • Visual colour scheme "brass-coloured" "sulphur-yellow" evokes the transitionfrom autumn to winter, a hard and dirty season where everything is "withered and discoloured"
  • Natural passage of seasons draws out the idea of death
    • "a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being"
    • used as a methaphor for mortality
    • everything will eventuallu cease to exist "All will fall still, all will lapse"
  • Symbolism
    • Threatening presence in metaphorical wood is clear through repeated phrase "Erl-King will do you no harm." 
    • "Old fiddle" with broken strings
      • Suggests neglect and abuse alongside the possibility of harmony
  • Narration slips into a dream-like rapture as the narrator is enchanted by the Erl-King
    • joyous indulgence is accompanied by a "terrible fear of entrapment"
  • Tale ends with a vision of the future - woman will liberate the trapped girls and enable the old fiddle to play music again.
    • "Mother, mother you have murdered me!" is a shocking and provocative relationship twist
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The Erl-King Quotes

  • The narrator walks through the woods at tthe start of the tale: "There is no way through the wood anymore.. Once you are inside it, you must stay there until it lets you out again."
    • The wood is personified as a malevolent being
    • Connection with teh Erl-King and his caged birds; suggests the wood and the Erl-King are one and the same
    • Links to the forest setting in other tales, a place of danger
  • The anrrator realises what the Erl-King intends: "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 grevious harm."
    • An ambiguous viewpoint: Erl-King is both malicious and innocent, or perhaps unknowingly malicious
    • Suggests innocence on the part of the narrator who cannot blame him for her death 
  • The Erl-King captures and cages birds: "and now I know the birds don't sing, they only cry"
    • Narrator has shaken off the Erl-Kings enchantment and lost her naivety 
    • Could suggest the shift in perception of the relationship between men and women when the enchantment of love fades
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The Snow Child Synopsis

  • An aristocrat riding with his wife wishes for a girl as beautiful as the objects he sees in nature
  • The child he has wished for appears
  • Countess is jealous and attempts to kill her but each attempt leaves the Countess eorse off than before
  • She succeeds the third time when the child pricks her finger on a rose and dies
  • The Count is upset and briefly has intercourse with the dead girl, who melts away
  • The Countess regains everything she has lost and the Count offers her the rose, which she drops
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The Snow Child Analysis

  • Characters:
    • Countess is a striking figure dressed in foxes - an anthropomorphic image of sly and cunning sexuality
    • Count has desires for a girl - suggestions that he is a cold blooded killer in his wish for a girl "as red as blood"
      • Comments on how patriachy shapes women in the image of mens desires and not much good comes of this
  • Symbols:
    • Significance of Count's desires is communicated via similes - snow, blood and a raven.
      • Raven = Gothic icon and omen of death
    • Pricking of the rose=
      • combines perfection of natural beauty and thorns as a metaphor of the inevitable pains of loving
  • Jealousy and Death
    • Count fails to protect child from Countess' jealousy
    • Necrophilia scene - Countess is only a spectator
      • Suggests that women know men would rather indulge themselves with dead fantasies than accept women as they really are
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The Snow Child Quotes

  • The Count wishes for a child "She was the child of his desire and the countess hated her"
    • Suggests the child is a fantasy realised
    • Creates ambiguity: does desire refer to her creation at the Count's wish? Or does it suggest his sexual desire?
  • Snow Child picks a rose, pricks her finger and dies: "The Count picked up the rose, bowed and handed it to his wife."
    • Suggests an empty gesture, attempting forgiveness and reconciliation
    • Could also suggest that the Count intends the Countess to die as the child did
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The Lady of the House of Love Synopsis

  • A beautiful vampire, doomed to eternal life, lurks in a chateau. She occasionally feasts on a traveller or shepherd boy.
  • The vampire's Tarot cards foretell death for visitors until the arrival of a young officer
  • In his innocence, the young officer changes the order of the tarot card, replacing Death with the Lovers. She expects to devour him but her ritual does not follow the usual pattern and she finds herself becoming human once more
  • They sleep together, but when he wakes, full of hope for the future, he discovers his new love has died as an old woman
  • He is roughly dispatched by the housekeeper and returns to his regiment to depart for war
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The Lady of the House of Love Analysis

  • A victim of immortality
    • The vampire merges two images into one monstrous form - she is both "dead and the maiden" - a murderer and beautiful, a helpless victim of her murderous nature.
    • Song of the caged lark pleases her because it mirrors her own imprisonment in her unnaturally preserved beauty which is a "deformity" because it is so perfectly inhuman
  • The Vampire
    • Malevolent sexual presence whose "army of shadows" interfere with nature turning good things into bad, sweet into sour etc
    • Self-fulfilling and inescapable prophecy in Tarot cards is a cycle of "wisdom, death, dissolution"
  • The Young Man
    • Soldier unable to imagine failure or defeat "this lack of imagination gives heroism to the hero"
  • Death
    • Soldier's reaction to her "pathetic death" is one of vague curiousity to "ressurect her rose"
      • The rose, an intimate memory of her, is a symbol of imminent death
    • Death regains its "corrupt, brilliant, baleful splendour" in the "monstrous flower" the soldier has revived.
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The Lady of the House of Love Quotes

  • The Lady of the House of Love is an archetypal vampire in almost every way "Everything about this beautiful and ghastly lady is as it should be, queen of night, queen of terror - except her horrible reluctance for the role
  • When she was a girl, the vampire was happy to feed on baby rabbits, voles and field mice, but "now she is a woman, she must have men"
    • Ambiguous suggestion of her sexual and cannibalistic impulses
    • Emphasises Carter's dual portrayal of the character as vampire and woman
  • The vampire considers her attraction to the young soldier: "And could love free me from the shadows? Can a bird sing only the song it knows?"
    • Suggests the possibilities of liberation which love and sexuality can bring
    • Links to the wider themes of metamorphosis and the possibilities of change
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The Werewolf Synopsis

  • A child is sent to her grandmother's with oatcakes and butter
  • She encounters a huge wolf. Unafraid, she draws her knife and cuts off its paw. The wolf limps away and they girl wraps up the paw, placing it in her basket
  • As snow falls and covers any tracks, the child comes to her grandmother's and finds her unwell
  • As the child takes a cloth from her basket, the wolf's paw falls out - but has transformed into a human hand. The child recognises it as her grandmother's
  • The child cries out and the neighbours come. They beat the old woman and stone her to death
  • The girl moves into her grandmother's house and prospers
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The Werewolf Analysis

  • A hard life for the cold and poor:
    • Uses pathetic fallacy as a reflection of people's cold hearts in the cold winter
  • The Child:
    • Based on Little Red Riding Hood
    • Equipped with her "father's hunting knife" and is skilled in its use
    • Portrayed as strong and able to protect herself
    • Some of our sympathy is retained as she calls neighbours to stone the witch grandmother
  • Happily ever after
    • Witch/wolf/grandmother has been stoned to death
    • she takes over house and "she prospered"
      • Suggests that it may be possible for this generation to benefit from ancestors' experience without (metaphorically) inherting their dangerous shape shifting qualities e.g pretending to be someone they're not
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The Werewolf Quotes

  • The child goes to visit her grandmother: "she knew the forest too well to fear it"
    • Suggests the girl's strength and resourcefulness
    • A new perspective on the symbol of the forest: knowledge can guide you through it
  • The girl recognises her grandmother's severed hand: "There was a wedding ring on the third finger and a wart on the index finger"
    • Grandmother is effectively condemned to death at this recognition
    • Tradition of marriage and superstition of witchcraft are given equal significance and are implicitly linked
    • The superstitions which Carter earlier mocked are verified: a wart can be the sign of a shape shifter
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The Company of Wolves Synopsis

  • The wolves in the winter forest are hungry
  • A young girl sets off into the forest to her granny's house
  • On her journey a stranger appears and walks along with her, challenging her to a race to her granny's house. If he wins he can kiss her.
  • The stranger arrives at granny's house and pretends to be the girl to trick the granny into inviting him in. He strips naked, turns into a wolf and eats her, then disguises himself in her pjs
  • The young girl arrives and is trapped by the man. The house is surrounded by howling wolves
  • She strips her clothes and burns them in the fire. She kisses the stranger and burns his shirt, making him completely a wolf.
  • Christmas Day arrives and the blizzard dies down, The girl is asleep with the wolf in granny's bed
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The Company of Wolves Analysis

  • Werewolves
    • "the wolf may be more than he seems"
    • Carter delays development of plot and introduction of main characters in order to highlight the danger of these "forest assassains"
  • The Girl
    • Cloaked with the protection of "the invisible pentacle of her own virginity"
    • Allusions to LRRH draw upon significance of menstrual blood and the physical evidence of passing from a girl to a woman
    • Says she is "nobody's meat" and is "afraid of nothing" as she seizes control of the situation and burns his clothing
  • Men and Wolves
    • By burning his clothes, the stranger is unable to take the shape of a man and is no longer a threat to the girl
      • Carter is suggesting that masculinity can be more dangerous to women than any carnivore
    • idea of "meat" reflects the feminist perspective that women are mere objects of flesh for the consumption of men
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Is there nothing for Wolf-Alice? :'(

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