The story is set in the first decade of the twentieth century, just before the outbreak of the First World War; this ties in to the theme of fate due to the fact that the ‘hero’ would either die in the war or become the prey of the ravaging Countess, who, did I mention was a vampire...? Carter plays around with gender roles, putting the traditionally helpless female victim into the predator’s shoes. The women in The Bloody Chamber are always strong and act as the main protagonist, even if they are somewhat misunderstood for... erm, killing people? Virginity in ‘The Lady…’ is a key factor due to it being stated that the handsome “blonde, blue-eyed soldier” (oof!) is a virgin; in this way Carter makes any sexual allegory ambiguous. The spilling of the Countess’s blood could be interpreted as a sexual act, employing a type of symbolism that is interesting for the reader because it makes you think about what you’re reading, as well as maybe re-reading, to get a better idea of what is actually going on.
Gothic themes are prevalent in ‘The Lady…’ as throughout The Bloody Chamber. One key motif is the tarot cards; certain recurring cards in the story such as ‘La Mort’ and ‘Les Amoureux’ represent mortality, lust and death, all themes that are vividly dramatised in the story. Again, subtle symbolic techniques provide a foreshadowing of upcoming events, letting you sink your teeth (pardon the pun) into the text and its meanings. Meanwhile ‘La Tour Abolie’ is a gothic symbol of annihilation and destruction, often further interpreted as the extinction of false belief, or the coming of war – a possible reference to WW1.
‘The Lady of the House of Love’ is a fantastic piece of literature that engrosses its audience on every level. The bite it gives keeps you wanting to read on, especially with its suggestion that the Countess is Dracula’s daughter who has inheritied all his land and property but doesn’t want it. What makes the tale even more interesting is the way the Countess doesn’t want to kill or, for that matter, even be a vampire. This conflict within the Countess fuels the action of the narrative and also contradicts the description of her as a “symptom”, as being “so beautiful she is unnatural; her beauty is an abnormality (like her vampiric needs?)”.
Overall, The Bloody Chamber is an amazing collection of stories that will excite you and give you many new ideas. In particular ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ deals with themes of lust and death as well as the feelings of doom and foreboding around WW1, with the irony that even though the soldier gets away from the Countess, he is doomed in the war. I’d definitely recommend this book – go buy it!