“she had robed herself involuntarily in a blush that reddened her breasts, her shoulders, her arms, her whole body?” – Gothic colour of red: love, passion, blood. Involuntarily suggests she had no power in the decision. Perhaps foreshadows her head being “reddened” by the key.
“when he first undressed me” – she does not undress herself. She is not in control
“the foolish Virgins” – the bride entered the marriage with little knowledge of the man she was really marrying.
“your thin white face…..your thin white face, with its promise of debauchery” – white: innocence, purity. “promise of debauchery” is the achievement the marquis sees his bride as. He wishes to coax her away from her virginity.
“a shower of sparks” – possibly represents orgasm (mini-death). Linked with the symbol of the Opal, and its connotations with bad luck, the reader can associate sex with death. A typical feature of the gothic.
“I felt giddy as I were on the edge of a precipice” – sexual anticipation for when her husband returns from America. Further emphasises the close link between sex and death.
“monstrous presence” – he is well endowed?
“always subtly oppressed me” – she never feels in control. Typically passive
“reborn in unfamiliar shapes. I hardly recognised myself from his descriptions of me….” – she is used goods. Her value has decreased.
“in the red firelight” – she is no longer viewed as the pristine, virginal bride. But is now described more with the colour red, suggesting she has lost her allure. He only wed her for her “rare talent of corruption”
Keys are a symbol of wealth, which the Marquis has. They are also representative of the secrets that character wishes to conceal, obviously the bloody chamber itself. By entrusting his bride with these keys, the Marquis empowers her to an extent. Another interpretation of the keys is that they are a phallic symbol, and that the bride is flirting with sexual knowledge and promiscuity by accepting the key. This idea of temptation is a biblical allusion to eve and the tree of knowledge. The bride is also left scarred by the Marquis, so its use as a phallic symbol is further emphasised.
“hollow, knocking sound that served him for a chuckle” – his laugh is symmetrical to his general demeanour. Never showing signs of love to his bride.
“his chafing had me bold” – she now feels empowered by her sexual experiences and more of an equal to her husband.
“he dangled the key tantalisingly above my head” – further sexual temptation. Particularly if the keys are viewed as phallic symbols
“bare red lips of his cracked side- long smile” – this sinister image foreshadows his intentions for the narrator
“the key to my enfer” – enfer is French for hell, or pandemonium.
“all is yours, everywhere is open to you – except the lock that this single key fits” – the theme of temptation is again brought up. Could also be interpreted as the bride’s sexual awakening: “everywhere is open to you”
“but you must promise me, if you love me, to leave it well alone.” – the reader is aware that she has only married him for what he offers in terms of status and wealth, so it is inevitable she will not “leave it well alone”
“savour the rare pleasure of imagining myself wifeless” – the bloody chamber is where he goes to rid himself of his wives, so when his current bride enters the chamber he will be wifeless again.
“the perfume of lilies weighed on my senses” – death is imminent
“he pressed me to his vicuna breast” – animalistic qualities.
“I felt a vague desolation within me, now my female wound had healed, there had awoken a certain queasy craving ” – now she has indulged herself in sex, she craves for it again. This temptation is what leads to her scarring. Her “dark newborn curiosity” highlights the link between sin and sex.
She begins to question her husband’s motives for leaving her – “might he have left me, not for Wall Street but for an importunate mistress…” Like in ‘The Snow Child’, she fears her husband seeks sex elsewhere. Carter is possibly commenting on society’s obsession with sex and wealth rather than love.