Category: Analysis

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The Bloody Chamber

In her book The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter presents interesting fairly tales which uses symbolism to expose the themes. This essay will explore symbolism in “Wolf-Alice” as the main story. Cartel uses different images throughout the tale. The main characters, Wolf-Alice and the Duke are symbolic. The moon and the night darkness are symbolic. The characters research a positive end through the mirror which is the main symbol in the tale. The author depicts animal qualities in human beings, which make them behave differently. Wolf-Alice is naturally a woman, but she resembles a wolf. She walks using her four limbs and howls like wolves instead of speaking. She wears no clothes as this was not introduced to her. Alice lacks mortality, which distinguishes human beings and animals. Peasants discover her as she is sleeping subsequently to her mother, the wolf. They shoot the wolf dead. They take Alice to the convert to live there. Thus, the author introduces a young girl who is brought up by wolves. Wolf-Alice is introduced as hot tempered, wild, and impatient.  

Carter opens the tale with a young girl who portrays animal qualities. The girl uses romanticism as a response to the confinement and solitude she was experiencing. She lives in an environment to which she does not belong. She could not understand herself and her body functioning since she was not taught that. The author uses various words which are animalistic in nature, such as body-snatcher and corpse eater. This makes the reader have a feeling of fear, which is symbolize the fear of death (Carter 121).

Nuns cannot eliminate animal qualities in Wolf-Alice. Frustrated, they take her to reside with the Duke, which results into him turning into a werewolf. This act symbolizes rejection from the society as a result of unacceptable behavior. The nuns reject Alice since she has animal qualities, irrespective of the fact that they were her saviors from the animal world. The Duke remains an invincible and lonely creature who never casts a reflection. He comes out at night and devours human corpses. The darkness and eating of human corpse symbolize animal characters in human beings. Alice is able to live with this animal as she has qualities of animals too. The Duke is feared in the whole town. The wolves cannot admit the Duke as he will eat them. The Duke is lonely as he neither belongs to the wolves nor to the humans. The same case applies to Alice: she is a human being who is brought up by wolves. Therefore, she neither belongs to humans nor to wolves. She resides in the Duke’s palace, and the beast does not devour her as it does to humans and wolves.

Wolf-Alice lives neither in a state of dreaming nor is she completely awake. Her menstruation begins, and she is not aware of anything of the sort. She wonders who had hurt her during the night. This symbolizes innocence and naivety. She is usually dirty, but decides to wipe out the blood out of shame. As she is searching a rag for cleaning up, she notices a mirror and sees her reflection for the first time. Innocently, she starts to play a game with her image. She is unaware that she is playing with her image. This symbolizes her isolation and loneliness. It also shows how distant she is with humans since she cannot recognize a small thing like a mirror at her age (Bacchilega 16).

Difference Between Her and the Environment

As time passes, Wolf-Alice starts to recognize a change. Simultaneously, she attains personal sense and notices a difference between her and the environment. Originally, the author portrays Alice with feelings similar to nature. She starts to change and acquire a sense of being. She stops behaving like a small baby or an animal as she was behaving in the beginning. She comes to understand the hidden theory behind the mirror reflection. She finds a wedding dress as she played with her image. She discovers how beautiful the dress was and decides to have a bath before wearing the dress. She puts on the dress and walks out of the castle as a smart woman. (Carter 123). The mortality and fear of shame are evident in this tale. Alice desired to wear clothes when she saw the wedding dress. The ability to differentiate between personality and environment is also a human character. Wolf-Alice has all these human traits, but she does not recognize them until the time she sees them in the mirror reflection.

Wolf-Alice goes to town and starts wandering around. She meets with a bridegroom, who is plotting vengeance upon the Duke, who, he believes, killed his bride. The young man waits for the Duke in the church within a townspeople group. He has anti-werewolf devices, including the holy water and silver bullets. These devices symbolize the efforts people make to fight with evil in their society. Alice is seated outside the same church captivated by the people’s hymn. She senses that the Duke is approaching as she smells him. She immediately notices something which is wrong. The Duke emerges, and they flee from the angry group, which was seeking for revenge. One of the silver bullets hits the Duke on the shoulder, and they continue running. On seeing the lady running following the Duke in her beautiful wedding dress, the crowd assumes that the bride’s ghost is seeking vengeance upon the Duke. They become frightened and run in opposite direction. Thus, Wolf-Alice embraces a reminder that human beings are beasts with no culture, unless it is planted in their mind when they are young. The narrator accepts that the townspeople were worried about her blemish as it indicated to them the reality of what they may be hiding within themselves (Asnes and Miller 98).

As they arrive in the castle, the Duke howls and bleeds. Alice starts to lick the blood tenderly and removes the dirt from his face. She licks away pain from the Duke. This symbolizes animal quality which is absent in humanity. Wolf-Alice nurses the Duke back to health. When the Duke gets his health back, he has a reflection in the mirror. The mirror reflects the face of the Duke. This shows that they both needed care for them to acquire human qualities. The nuns saved Alice from the wolves’ territory, and she had a reflection. She started wearing clothes as the first step of humanity. Similarly, Alice nurses the Duke, and he sees a reflection, which changes his life (Carter 125). Wolf-Alice pities the Duke as she realizes that he was imperfect. She does this just like the wolves pitied her irrespective of her humanity. She transforms the Duke with her kindness. However, Alice’s kindness and pity cannot be regarded as human traits. This was a result of her animal side. Human characters in this story are seeking to kill the beast as they believe it is bad and harmful. On the contrary, Wolf-Alice saves the Duke and nurses him. This is because she has experienced animal sensations. Wolf-Alice attains human qualities, but she still has animal kindness, which makes her pity the Duke.  

Wolf-Alice’s transformation comes from the reflection. The first time she observes the mirror, she thinks she has found a companion who would comfort her. Menstruation causes her to feel shame. She has to look for rags to wipe the blood away. This is the beginning of her discovery that she is different from the surrounding. Immediately after discovering that the mirror reflection was her image, she realizes that she has the power over it. This is when she starts thinking with human objectivity. This is when she sees the dress and desires to appear human. She cleans her body so that she avoids destroying the beautiful dress. She wears it and moves out to present her humanity to the surrounding. Ultimately, she helps the Duke out of pain.

The mirror is the main symbol in this tale. The mirror is used as an object which rehearses lives of Wolf-Alice and the Duke (Carter 125). It acts as a symbol of paradox which combines contradictory qualities or features. It is a grid which acts as a door to the prospects of three dimensional environments. It is a gateway and a barrier, a way in and a wall, a beginning and a dead end. Wolf-Alice stares at the glass. This is an act connected with the opposite of the expected. Therefore, it serves as the distinguished between two worlds: the world of being and nonbeing.

The mirror acts as a symbol of rationality, understanding and enlightenment. It reflects what happens in the real world at the expense of ghost and wolf world. It takes Wolf-Alice and the Duke from their confused world to the real world. The Duke is rescued from this world by Wolf-Alice who has gained her sense of being from mirror reflection. His appearance in the mirror symbolizes understanding himself as a being rather than a beast. Prior to his emancipation, the Duke lives in a half-being world which makes him behave like a beast (Carter 124). He kills people and east their corpse. The mirror reveals the hidden knowledge and truth between the invisible and the visible.

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Cartel uses a mirror reflection in this story like a distinguisher of animals, half-beasts, and humans. Human beings distinguish their reflections, while animals do not. Similarly, half-beasts lack sense of recognizing reflections. The Duke and Wolf-Alice live in a confused world, which is neither human nor animal. Their identity is revealed by mirror reflections. Alice had not recognized the importance of wearing clothes until she discovered her reflection was not a different being but her own image. This revelation changes her mind and behavior from animosity to humanity. On the other hand, Duke is neither a beast nor a human being. He is ensnared between the metaphysical and physical universe. He is an incomplete mystique and an abandoned transformation. He kills people and eats their corpses. Similarly, he is unable to recognize his reflection in a mirror. The mirror transformed Wolf-Alice into human, and it transformed the Duke into being with the help of Wolf-Alice (Carter 126).


In conclusion, Angela Carter features symbolism in her book The Bloody chamber. She uses words which symbolize different things and emphasize on themes. Wolf-Alice walks with four limbs, howls, and wears no clothes. She is physically and mentally naked. This is a symbol of innocence. She is alienated by the nuns who save her from the wolves. She lives with the Duke, who is also a half-beast. However, she transforms after seeing her mirror reflection and transforms the Duke using the same reflection. 

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