Blood Relations

Blood Relations Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Birds (Symbol)

Lizzie's pet birds are symbols, representing the freedom she desperately craves. She keeps her birds in a cage, representing how she feels trapped, and then her father kills the birds, which represents the death of her freedom. Additionally, the birds are pigeons, representing the fact that Lizzie feels undervalued; pigeons are often thought of as dirty city birds, rather than as beautiful. The fact that Lizzie values and takes care of pigeons represents the fact that she wants to take care of something that is maligned in society.

The Actress (Symbol)

Lizzie's acquaintance and likely lover, the Actress, plays Lizzie in a reenactment of Lizzie's crime. The figure of "The Actress," someone who represents another person's experience, symbolizes Lizzie's feelings of having multiple identities, of being fragmented by her pain. At the end, the Actress confronts Lizzie about the fact that she killed her parents and Lizzie tells her that it was she who committed the murders, as indeed she is the one who committed them within the reenactment. The Actress symbolizes the ways that Lizzie, and by extension anyone, is capable of horrible acts of violence because of her circumstances. It represents the ways that responsibility for individual acts can be traced to the environment in which that person lives.

Puppies (Symbol)

At one point, Lizzie talks about the family farm, and tells a story about a litter of puppies. One of the puppies was sick, or at least "different" from the rest, presumably because it was the runt of the litter. Lizzie tells us that they had to kill that puppy because of its difference. This story symbolizes Lizzie's own feelings of alienation within her family, the ways that she feels "different" from the rest of the litter, and her fear that that will be her downfall.

The Farm and the Mill House (Symbol)

Part of what sends Lizzie over the edge is her feeling of disempowerment as a result of her uncle Harry Wingate and stepmother acquiring financial control over her father's estate. Wingate manages to convince Mr. Borden to give him possession of both the family farm and the mill house. For Lizzie, the farm represents a joyous place from her youth, and a place that she hopes to someday possess for herself. Its getting signed away to her uncle and stepmother symbolizes a complete acquisition of ownership that shuts her out and leaves her dependent and disempowered.

"Did you?" (Motif)

Both the Actress and Emma ask Lizzie this question, which reflects their desire to know if she actually killed Mr. and Mrs. Borden. Lizzie never gives an objective or definitive answer, and the motif of having characters ask her has the effect of further confusing the question of objectivity or truth, making the events leading up to the death that much more mysterious.