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Bluebeard | Symbols


Rabo's Eye Patch

Rabo's eye patch symbolizes the concealment of damage and pain from the world. He lost his eye in an explosion in World War II. He hides the damage to his eye and his embarrassment about its appearance with the patch, just as he hides sadness about his wife and children leaving him, the loss of his paintings, and Edith's death by becoming a relative recluse in his home. When his eye patch falls off in Chapter 14 revealing his scar to Slazinger, Allison White, and Celeste, Rabo realizes they are not that shocked at what he had thought was his "most secret disfigurement," and he begins to come out of hiding, too, forming closer relationships with those around him.

Rabo occasionally refers to himself as a cyclops. In Greek mythology, a cyclops is a one-eyed giant, most often a hermit. Cyclopes are also violent cannibals who threaten the safety of both humans and gods.


The novel makes three references to Lazarus, a dead man brought back to life by Jesus in the Bible (John 11). Lazarus represents resurrection and new life after death and loss. The first reference to Lazarus in Chapter 2 compares modern, postwar technological advances like antibiotics and nuclear energy as sources of a completely new type of life. Rabo, who sees the promises made by technological advances as no more than a con game, writes sarcastically that "antibiotics would defeat all diseases. Lazarus would never die."

The second reference is in Chapter 15 in which Circe compares herself to Jesus and Rabo to Lazarus, as she has given Rabo new life by getting him to write his autobiography. Rabo compares himself to Lazarus in Chapter 37 when he says he came back to life like Lazarus both after the death of Terry Kitchen, when he married Edith, and after Edith's death, when he met Circe. Rabo experiences an artistic renaissance by painting Now It's the Women's Turn on the "dead" remains of his painting Windsor Blue Number Seventeen. Additional rebirths that occur in Bluebeard include Rabo's mother's survival of the Turkish massacre by playing dead, Dan Gregory's rise from a miserable childhood in Russia to artistic success in America, and Marilee's reinvention of herself as the powerful Countess Portomaggiore.

Sateen Dura-Luxe

The "postwar miracle" of a newly developed acrylic wall paint that promised to "outlive the smile on the Mona Lisa" actually degraded over time, peeling off the canvas and turning into a deadly poison that could not be disposed of in a regular landfill. The catastrophe of Sateen Dura-Luxe robbed Rabo of his work and his reputation as an artist, making him a "hilarious footnote" in the history of abstract expressionism. Sateen Dura-Luxe symbolizes the failed promises of modernism and technology. The paint, like so many modern technological advances, including nuclear energy and the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), had tragic unforeseen consequences rather than making life better or easier as they had promised. The paint may also serve as a reminder that Rabo's abstract expressionist works lacked soul, and thus inevitably fell apart.

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