The Other Boleyn Girl Literary Elements

The Other Boleyn Girl Literary Elements


Historical fiction

Setting and Context

16th century England, Tudor Dynasty, during the reign of King Henry VIII. Some events take place in Calais, English occupied France.

Narrator and Point of View

Mary Boleyn is the sole narrator of the novel. This story is delivered through a first-person narrator. Mary Boleyn’s narration is peppered with letters from other characters, which provide access to their feelings and thoughts.

Tone and Mood

Intriguing, claustrophobic, suspenseful, unsettling.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Mary Boleyn is the protagonist who tries to find love and happiness. Mary’s father, mother and uncle are the antagonists who trample on Mary’s personal feelings and use her as a dispensable pawn to the advancement her family’s interests. Anne Boleyn is also an antagonist who threatens to destroy Mary’s happiness .

Major Conflict

Mary Boleyn struggles from an intense inner conflict between personal desires and family loyalty. On one hand, she longs to start a close-knitted family life away from the intrigues of the court; on the other hand, she is also a devoted member of the Boleyn family who is willing to sacrifice herself to the advancement of her family’s interests. These two interests are always at variance. If Mary hopes to advance her family’s interests, then she must give up her dream of a happy family life in the country.


Queen Anne Boleyn gives birth to a deformed stillbirth; Mary tries desperately to conceal this fact. The king toys with the ideas to replace Anne with a fertile woman.


When Mary Boleyn secretly visits a female apothecary, the apothecary says that she should beware of the blades, thus foreshadowing the execution of her siblings. Before Anne’s marriage to the king, Mary remarks that Anne may never conceive a son due to her advanced years. This foreshadows Anne’s failure to deliver the king a son.


Anne gives hint that she is driven to commit incest in a desperate effort to conceive a son and to save her crown. The book understates the possibility of incest. The readers are not given details as to the nature of the relationship between Anne and George Boleyn.


Mary compares Anne Boleyn to a snake. The snake is a biblical creature who urges Eve to consume the apple, which causes her fall from grace. The snake from the bible is a seductive, deceitful and destructive creature which brings ruin and destruction on people’s heads. By comparing Anne Boleyn to a snake, Mary highlights the seductive traits of her characters. Mary believes Anne to be a femme fatale who will use her beauty and charms towards destructive ends.


Jane Seymour likes to don the unflattering gable hood headdress. The imagery of the unflattering gable hood signifies Jane’s unassuming character. It also highlights her modesty because the deep brims of the gable hood conceal the wearer’s face. By wearing this headdress, Jane seeks to present herself as a contrasting character to Anne Boleyn. Instead of conforming to the seductive, highly sexualized image of Queen Anne, Jane Seymour presents a refreshing alternative as a modest maiden who is indifferent towards display, ostentation and worldly wealth.


Before his second marriage, King Henry believes Anne to be a virtuous woman with an irreproachable character. However, Anne is in fact an unscrupulous, calculating, unprincipled and heartless woman who is ready to play any card to become queen.


Although Jane Seymour presents herself as a contrasting character to Anne; Jane and Anne are in fact parallel figures. Both Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour come from highly ambitious noble families. Both of them are young women with a beautiful physiognomy. Both of their families use them as dispensable pawns to advance family interests. Both of these women are ambitious and seek to become queen, even though Jane is careful to conceal her ambitions. Both of them are skillful in diverting and delighting the king. Both of them succeeded in becoming queen.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

On the surface, Hever castle is only a building. But in this story, Hever comes to symbolize the stagnant dullness of country life and fall of favour. Because when Anne falls out of favour, she is always sent to Hever castle. Hever is more than a building; it is the symbolic representation of an alternative existence than court life. However, Hever comes to symbolize domestic happiness and tranquility for Mary, because she is of a different temperament from Anne and is fond of a country life away from the court.


Mary attributes human qualities onto her horse, describing it as docile and plaint.

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