Comparison Of The Short Story Bloody Chamber And The Movie Room

In the movie “Room” (2016), narrated by five year old Jack, he details his perceptions of his captivity that he and his mother are under by Old Nick. Jack and his mother, Ma, have been locked in the same small room for over five years. Every night, Old Nick comes into the room and has sex with Ma for his own sick pleasure. Jack was born inside of the room and has never been outside in the real world, leaving him with little knowledge of what life is like outside in the real world. Ma tries to teach Jack that there is a world outside of the room they live in, but it is difficult for Jack to comprehend and imagine such a thing. After many unsuccessful attempts, Jack and Ma finally escape but have difficulty adjusting to the real world that is outside of ‘room’. Similarly, the short story, “The Bloody Chamber”, narrated by a 17 year old girl whose name is not mentioned, depicts her experiences being controlled by her abusive husband Marquis. The author, Angela Carter, details how the protagonist got herself into an abusive relationship and how she eventually escaped it. The narrator is a young, poor girl who lived with her mother. She marries a wealthy Marquis in hopes of getting her and her mother out of poverty. The Marquis uses her as a sex object, acts violently, and threatens to kill her once she realizes that he has killed his previous three wives. Both of these stories are similar in that they share stylistic and thematic elements including: their narrative style told through the first person point of view, characters who become dominated by male figures, and characters who resist their oppressive situations by escaping.

Narration and voice-overs are important aspects in films and novels, helping the audience empathize and feel connections with the characters. “Room” and The Bloody Chamber are both narrated in the first person point of view, allowing the audience to empathize and engage with Jack, Ma, and the young girl. Jack’s narration throughout the movie allows the viewer to emotionally connect with him, and understand his point of view during his captivity alongside his mother. He describes his life to the audience to the best of his ability, “There's ‘Room’, then Outer Space, then Heaven…TV persons are flat and made of colors with red mouths and clothes instead of skin but me and you are real. Old Nick I don't know if he's real, maybe half?”. Jack’s narration gives the audience a detailed understanding of how a five year old might think and feel while being held captive. Similarly, the story of The Bloody Chamber is told through the perspective of a seventeen year old girl who is trying to escape her murderous husband. In the beginning of the story, the girl is on a train reflecting on her recent decisions. She states that, “I remember how, that night, I lay awake...through the night, away from Paris, away from girlhood, away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother's apartment, into the unguessable country of marriage.” By having the young girl be the narrator of the story, it helps the reader understand her character and the emotions that she is feeling. She’s enchanted by her mysterious husband, but also has some uneasy feelings about him. She feels honored to have been chosen to be his wife The girl is trapped in a male-dominant relationship and attempts to help the reader understand the situation that she is in. The first person narrative style is displayed in order to understand what Jack, Ma, and the young girl are feeling as they go through their male-dominant and sexually abusive relationships.

Male dominance and sexual aggression are common themes in “Room” and The Bloody Chamber. In “Room”, Jack and Ma are imprisoned by Old Nick. Ma tries her best to educate Jack as he grows up, but it is difficult for him to understand and grasp the idea that there is a life outside of ‘room’. For example, she says. “Jack, the world is so big, it’s so big you wouldn't even believe it. And ‘Room’ is just one stinking part of it”. Ma is frustrated that Jack can’t understand or visualize a world outside of ‘room’, but Ma tries to teach him. Every night, Jack sleeps in a wardrobe while Old Nick comes into ‘room’ and has sex with Ma. Old Nick is easily irritated, and becomes violent and mentally abusive towards Ma. After burning a piece of toast, Old Nick tells Ma that “thinking is not your strong suit”. Ma feels conflicted, because she has no desire to say anything to Old Nick when he comes in; she has to please him and tell him what he wants to hear, because he is the only resource that Ma and Jack have. Ma tries explaining to Jack that it’s not such an easy solution to hurt Old Nick. Ma states, “We could try and kill him, but we would run out of food-we don’t know the code to the door”. If Ma does or says anything to upset or frustrate Old Nick, he will threaten to stop buying them food and resources. For instance, when Ma asks Old Nick to buy vitamins for Jack, Old Nick responds by saying that they’re too expensive for him to buy. Ma tries to respectfully tell him the importance of buying the vitamins for Jack, but it’s no use. Old Nick responds by saying, “Fuck here we go again, maybe if you could stop complaining and be more grateful”. This illustrates the male dominance in Ma and Old Nick’s relationship, as he has physical and mental control over her. Similarly, in The Bloody Chamber, the narrator is married to a wealthy and powerful Marquis. She marries him in order to provide a better life for her and her mom, as they are living in very poor conditions. As soon as they get married, the Marquis takes control over the narrator and forces her to have sex with him, “He stripped me, gourmand that he was, as if he were stripping the leaves off an artichoke...At once he closed my legs like a book and I saw again the rare movement of his lips that meant he smiled”. The narrator feels somewhat uneasy about this marriage, but is drawn to the Marquis because he is enchanting and mysterious. She feels special and even honored that the Marquis chose her to be his wife, so she tries to brush aside his abusive behaviour towards her; this allows the Marquis to take advantage of her and to have all of the power in the relationship. In a case study written by Cris M. Sullivan, he researched and identified some of the main reasons why women might feel the need to stay in abusive relationships. Sullivan states that one of the main reasons that women stay in unhealthy relationships is because they do not have the resources they need in order to leave. Abused women might not have the necessary resources to support themselves or their children who are involved; there may not be any community resources to support them out financially, or there may not be any resources related to healthcare. This case study relates to both “Room” and “The Bloody Chamber”, because the characters in those stories are in abusive relationships for the same exact reasons-they need resources. Ma and Jack depend on Old Nick to bring them resources; he doesn’t spoil them, but once a week he comes into ‘room’ with food, vitamins, and clothing. Ma knows that she has to thoroughly plan out their escape, or else her and Jack could be locked in there with no resources at all. On the other hand, in the Bloody Chamber, the young girl also feels like she is trapped in her relationship with the Marquis, because she too needs resources. After her father had passed away, the girl and her mother had been living in poverty with barely any money to spare. The young girl marries the extremely wealthy Marquis in order to support her and her mother. She wants to make life financially easier for her mother, but knows that if she leaves her sexually abusive relationship, she will lose those resources.

Lastly, another shared theme in “Room” and “The Bloody Chamber” is the captivity and escape of the main characters. In “Room”, Ma had been held captive for seven years. It was revealed later on in the movie that she was kidnapped at seventeen years old, by an older man who was on the street who needed ‘help’ with his dog. When Jack was first born, Ma had tried multiple times to escape in order to get them both out. She tried to physically hurt Old Nick and tried to open the locked door, but her attempts were unsuccessful, “One time I tried to kick Old Nick in the butt...when he came in I smashed the lid of the toilet on his head, but I messed up. He shoved the door closed and grabbed me by the wrist, that’s why it’s sore now”. Ma tries explaining to Jack that they need to get out as soon as possible, and that they need to plan an escape. Ma decides to pretend that Jack is dead, and rolls him up into a rug. When Old Nick comes at night, Ma cries and explains that Jack had caught a virus and has passed away. She convinces Old Nick to carry Jack away and to bury him somewhere nice outside of ‘room’. Ma goes on to say, “Keep him wrapped up. Swear you won't even look at him with your filthy eyes”. Old Nick leaves ‘room’ with Jack in the rug, and puts him into the back of his pickup truck. As Old Nick begins to drive, Jack wiggles out of the rug, jumps out onto the street, and eventually gets in contact with the police. The police find Ma’s location and rescue her, allowing her to reunite with Jack in the outside world. In The Bloody Chamber, after the young girl marries the Marquis, they are brought to his beautiful castle where she is under his control. He forces her to sleep with him and makes her put on specific clothing to please his desires. Later on in the story, the Marquis tells her that he is going away on a business trip. He sets out some rules that she has to follow, and gives her a set of keys to the entire castle. He tells her that she can go wherever she pleases, except for one chamber. After the Marquis leaves town, the girl explores the castle, and unlocks the chamber to find the dead bodies of all of the Marquis’ past wives. The girl is shocked and doesn’t know what to do, so she confides in a blind piano tuner who lives in the castle, who’s named Jean. Jean explains that the Marquis is known all around town for his murderous behaviour, so the girl decides that they need to plan an escape. As they contemplate on what to do, the Marquis arrives to the castle and eventually finds out that the girl found his secret chamber. He decides that he will kill her and Jean, but just as he is about to do so, the girl’s mother comes to the castle and shoots the Marquis dead. A literature review written by Thelma Riddel, Marilyn Ford-Giboe, and Bevery Leipert, shows the perspectives of women who were being abused and how they got out of their relationships. The review focuses on the different strategies that women have to escape intimate partner violence-whether it be emotional, physical, mental, or sexual abuse. Studies showed that women who had experienced more severe physical abuse had better safety planning and escape strategies. This literature review is relevant to both “Room” and “The Bloody Chamber” because both Ma and the young girl attempt to escape their captivity.

To conclude, “Room” and “The Bloody Chamber” share thematic and stylistic elements that make them alike. Through first person narration, the audience engages with the characters on a meaningful level by understanding their emotions and struggles that they are overcoming. The audience connects to Jack and the girl because they are able to hear these character’s stories through their own perspectives. 

16 August 2021
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