Crewel Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Grooming (motif)

From the beginning of the novel, there are many instances of people, particularly women, grooming themselves for public viewing. Adelice recalls her mother applying makeup at home and, once she arrives at the Coventry, is given an entire team of aestheticians to keep her looking her best. Renewal patches keep citizens looking young long past their youth and conversations throughout the book reveal the characters' focus on appearances. This motif demonstrates the degree to which everyday life is altered and contrived in Arras and reminds readers that what's seen on the surface is not necessarily reflective of what lies beneath.

Hourglass (symbol)

The hourglass is a symbol of the past and a reminder to Adelice of all that she left behind when entering the Coventry. Given to her by her father, Adelice uses it to remember her purpose at the Coventry. The hourglass is also a reminder that with each passing day, Adelice has less time to save herself and her sister from the Guild's clutches.

LIfe and Death (motif)

For much of the beginning of the novel, Adelice is surrounded by deaths, many of which she feels personally responsible for causing. Her father and mother, the students in the academy at Cypress, Enora and Valery all suffer death because of their relation to her. Even her own sister suffers a kind of death when the Guild strips her of her identity and all her memories, making her into an entirely new person. However, as the novel goes on, Adelice understands how her power can be used as a life-giving force. She watches on as Loricel creates a river and discovers that Jost's daughter Sebrina is still alive somewhere in Arras. Even amidst the desolation of Earth, Adelice catches sight of life in the form of an aircraft in the sky.

Manipulation (motif)

At the most fundamental level, Spinsters manipulate life in Arras. They are in turn manipulated by the male-run Guild, which also manipulates the thoughts and behaviors of everyday citizens in Arras. From mind-mapping to cleaning and ripping, the state of Arras is constantly manipulated. The motif relates to the theme of a controlled society that Adelice rejects outright when she decides to risk losing her powers of manipulation by taking a chance living on Earth.

Mirror (symbol)

The mirror in Adelice's room symbolizes her constant journey towards self once she is taken away from her family. At times she can recognize her reflection, and at other times, she sees a complete stranger staring back at her. The mirror reflects Adelice's changing and developing identity and self-awareness.