Pretty Woman Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Pretty Woman Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Knee High Boots, fastened with a safety pin

In the opening credits to Pretty Woman, we see Vivian getting ready for the night shift as a prostitute. In getting dressed, she colors in her black, patent, knee-high boots with a marker pen, and zips them up with a safety pin. These knee high boots come to symbolize many different things throughout the film. Firstly, they are the ultimate symbol of Vivian’s role as a prostitute. Yet, as we learn that the job is merely a necessity for money, the boots also become a symbol of the front that Vivienne must constantly keep up; she looks like a prostitute, and does everything a prostitute does, but it is not inherently who she is. Later in the film, Edward comments on how Vivienne is obviously struggling with money, using a safety pin on her boots. The third way the boots could therefore be interpreted is as a symbol of Vivian’s struggle with money. As Vivian begins to develop as a person, she stops wearing the boots. The meaning of these boots then develops to become a symbol of her past, representing everything that she was and has now left behind.

Dental floss

Shortly after Vivian has entered Edward’s penthouse apartment, she excuses herself to use the bathroom. When Vivian hides the dental floss behind her back, Edward assumes it to be drugs. This sets up the dental floss as symbolic of the social expectations that surround prostitution. In hiring Vivian as a prostitute, Edward also automatically assumes she does drugs, a common conception of those who offer their bodies for money. This also subtly suggests symbolic significance of morality. Edward assumes that prostitution is a lifestyle choice, and that Vivian must have little moral goodness about her if she decides to partake in it. The fact that Vivian actually has dental floss is therefore important. It not only corrects the belief that Edward has of Vivian, but it also suggests that she is not your average prostitute. The dental floss is therefore a symbol of Vivian’s potential as a wholesome, morally correct individual.

The salad fork

Shortly after Vivian has entered Edward’s penthouse apartment, she excuses herself to use the bathroom. When Vivian hides the dental floss behind her back, Edward assumes it to be drugs. This sets up the dental floss as symbolic of the social expectations that surround prostitution. In hiring Vivian as a prostitute, Edward also automatically assumes she does drugs, a common conception of those who offer their bodies for money. This also subtly suggests symbolic significance of morality. Edward assumes that prostitution is a lifestyle choice, and that Vivian must have little moral goodness about her if she decides to partake in it. The fact that Vivian actually has dental floss is therefore important. It not only corrects the belief that Edward has of Vivian, but it also suggests that she is not your average prostitute. The dental floss is therefore a symbol of Vivian’s potential as a wholesome, morally correct individual.

Diamond necklace

The diamond necklace that Edward gives Vivian to wear to the opera is of extreme significance. By this point, Vivian has been immersed in Edward’s world for a few days. Yet, hearing the price of the necklace invokes a reaction that reminds the audience that Vivian is still of a lower class. This also represents class boundaries, and the difference between the two companions. Vivian has never even touched anything so luxurious, whereas Edward is a frequent customer, and very accustomed to it. The necklace also has greater significance as a plot point at the end of the movie. As Edward returns the necklace to Barney, it reminds him of the unforgettable night at the opera with Vivian. Coupled with Barney revealing he knows where Vivian lives, this prompts Edward to realize that he cannot possibly let her go, despite her ‘unrealistic’ relationship expectations.

High up places

As a story that is loosely based on Cinderella, elevated places are an important symbol throughout the story. They represent the tower that features in another princess fairy-tale, Rapunzel. Just like her, Vivian is trapped at the top, in both her life choices and self-deprecation; the only way she can escape is through being rescued. The first high location is Edward’s balcony in his penthouse suite. As Edward refuses to even sit outside with Vivian, this represents how he has not yet evolved in to this prince, capable of saving the princess. The best example of the symbol is situated at the end, with Vivian’s apartment block fire exit. In scaling it to reach Vivian and prevent her from leaving, the fire exit and Edward become the ultimate symbol of the prince and the tower, ending the fairy-tale happily.

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