Motif in Margaret Atwood's "Bluebeard's Egg"


The most intriguing motif in Atwood's "Bluebeard's Egg" was the heart
motif. Sally's husband Ed is a "heart man," which we can infer is a
cardiologist. He works in a hospital, and according to Sally, many women
want him to fix their hearts. The narrator says that Ed is "beset by
sirens," (Atwood in Tatar, 1999, p. 160) alluding to the mythological
characters said to lure sailors off course and to their deaths. But even
though Ed is a heart man, he's not clear on matters of the heart, thus
making him a target for those sirens. To Sally, however, the heart is
not a necessary organ, it is something that can be removed,
symbolically, I imagine, if it causes trouble.

We see, even further, Sally's detachment from her heart when Ed allows
her to test the new machine in his wing. She sees her heart in black and
white not as something that is attached to her, but something that beats
somewhere off in the distance of its own volition. Thus, she cannot get
a read on her own feelings, her own sense of self.

At the end of the story, past the retelling of a version of Bluebeard,
after Sally decides to retell the story from the perspective of the egg,
she revisits the black and white version of the heart outside of herself
as something she has no control over. The egg is the next image to pop
into her mind, one that shifts and changes, and feels alive to her. Its
red hue intrigues Sally, and she wonders what will hatch from it.

I wonder, as a reader, if we are supposed to infer that within the egg
is a color version of Sally's heart, very alive and very much part of
her. This could represent a liberation of sorts, returning to the actual
question. There life within an egg, followed by the birth (hatching) of
an egg--Sally's sense of self is confined inside this pulsating object,
and Sally is afraid of it, as many women find themselves afraid of life
on their own.

Tatar, M. (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton
& Co.

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