Consider the significance of blood in either two or three of the stories in the Bloody Chamber?


In looking at the Bloody Chamber story, a common Gothic trope is the presence of blood which can be likened to the ruby choker. The Marquis presents the protagonist with a ‘choker of rubies… bright as arterial blood’. This creates strong visual image of the necklace suffocating the girl. The image of blood is significant as it represents the firm and tight grip of Marquis over the girl.

Carter may also be highlighting that the protagonist’s obsession with excess and wealth can have fatal consequences. The Marquis’ passion for commodities and objects is a contributing factor to his death and here Carter may be warning the protagonist that luxury is not always desirable.

The image of ‘flashing crimson jewels’ may be an allusion to the French Revolution. Carter creates images of ‘guillotines’ and ‘Slit throats’ which adds to the idea that the Marquis is violent in nature. My combining images of blood and jewellery Carter creates an ironic flare by associating images of death with wealth.

Images of blood reoccur in the Bloody Chamber story when the Marquis prepares the girl for her death. When he ‘presses the key’ on her forehead it leaves a ‘heart-shaped stain’. The blood forms into the shape of a ‘heart’ which can be seen as ironic as the relationship between the girl and the Marquis is devoid of love. The mark may have a Biblical meaning as the narrator describes it as the ‘mark of Cain’.

This is significant because by likening her to Cain Carter presents the girl as the offender not the Marquis. Carter punishes the girl for her passivity and accepting her roles as a dependent woman by ‘branding’ her with the mark. In the original Bluebeard tale Perrault’s moral is that ‘curiosity costs dearly’.

However, Carter subverts this idea by rewarding the girl for her curiosity by letting her live. In this way the blood stain on her forehead is not a mark of ‘shame’ but a symbol of heroism. Rather than blood being a symbol of death and violence, a typical Gothic trope, here it is a symbol of the protagonist’s agency and growth as a woman.

Another story that contains images of blood is Wolf Alice. The blood in this short story is symbolic of Alice’s menstrual cycle and how it domesticates her. When Alice first starts her period ‘Her first blood bewildered her’ suggesting that prior to this she was animalistic and beastly.

However, when she begins her cycle she looks for ‘rags to sop the blood up’ implying that she is assuming her role as a civilised human being while simultaneously transitioning from girlhood to womanhood. The blood in Wolf Alice is similar to the mark of blood on the girl’s forehead, in the Bloody Chamber, in that both girls feel ‘shame’ and embarrassment because of the blood.

It is her shame that makes her ‘diaper herself’ and conceal her body. In Wolf Alice she describes the Dukes Room as a ‘Bloody Chamber’ which further alludes to the first story. In the first story the Bloody Chamber may represent a room of death as Carter describes the room containing ‘Shrouds… and burial clothes’. Blood is significant in Wolf Alice as it represents the progression of the girl from beastly to civilised and from youth to womanhood.

By Libin Farah