And for all that, I have spent the night in his hotel suite, and I feel safe. Protected. He cares enough to come and rescue me from some mistakenly perceived danger. He's not a dark knight at all, but a white knight in shining, dazzling armor—a classic romantic hero—Sir Gawain or Lancelot.
Ana reflects on these lines when she wakes up in Christian's hotel room. At this point, they do not yet have a sexual relationship; he brought her back to his room after she became very drunk and passed out. The quote shows that Ana has been feeling wary and slightly afraid of Christian, imagining that he might be a "dark knight." This suspicion might come from the fact that José and Paul Clayton have both been fairly forceful in their pursuit of her. By contrast, Christian came to help her in an unpleasant situation, and focused all of his concern on her welfare. Ana is beginning to idealize Christian and imagine him as a character in a romantic story. The quote shows her dreamy and romantic nature. It also shows that she has little frame of reference for actual relationships: she only knows what she has learned from books, and this lack of perspective makes her vulnerable.
I wander to the far corner of the room and pat the waist high padded bench and run my fingers over the leather. He likes to hurt women. The thought depresses me.
"You’re a sadist?"
"I’m a Dominant."
His eyes are a scorching gray, intense.
"What does that mean?" I whisper.
"It means I want you to willingly surrender yourself to me, in all things."
Here in Christian's "Red Room of Pain," he explains for the first time what his ideal relationship dynamic would be: she is the submissive, and he is her dominant. Ana's initial interpretation of the room, and the question she asks him shows the gap in their frames of reference. Ana assumes the point is that Christian enjoys inflicting pain, and this information is hard for her to accept. However, Christian has a more nuanced definition: what arouses him is power, and pain matters only because inflicting it can be a form of asserting power. He uses the word "dominant" to explain this more complicated idea. However, this initial interaction reveals a problematic dynamic which plagues Christian and Ana's relationship throughout the novel. She finds the basic idea of inflicting pain on another person to be upsetting, not arousing, and she can never fully grasp the psychological dynamic of what he is seeking.
"Anastasia, I'm not a hearts and flowers kind of man, I don't do romance. My tastes are very singular. You should steer clear from me." He closes his eyes as if in defeat. "There's something about you, though, and I'm finding it impossible to stay away. But I think you've figured that out already."
Christian speaks these words to Ana after their night in the hotel. Christian is wrestling between his desire for Ana, and his awareness that they are likely incompatible. Christian can sense that Ana is developing feelings for him, and knows that she will likely want a conventional relationship. Christian is not interested in emotional intimacy, long-term commitment, or vanilla sex. Despite knowing that they should likely stop seeing each other, Christian finds himself irresistibly drawn to her. Knowing that Ana is not experienced with BDSM is part of what makes her so alluring: Christian would be the ultimate dominant with her, because he would have total control over her introduction to this world, and would know she had never shared these experiences with anyone else. Christian's hesitation here shows that he is not totally selfish and reckless, but also that he is prepared to pursue his own pleasure even while knowing that Ana may get hurt as a result.
I am plagued by one question—why is he like this? Is it because he was seduced at such a young age? I just don't know. He's still such a mystery.
Ana reflects on this quote after she reads through the full contract and terms of agreement that Christian offers to her. She is deeply unsure how to respond: she knows that she is attracted to Christian, but she is also frightened by what he offers to her. The quote shows that Ana cannot understand Christian's psychology, and does not feel that he is being fully open with her. To her, BDSM is very foreign and she assumes that something must have happened in Christian's past to shape his desires. Ana's interest in how Christian developed his sexual preferences signals that she wishes he had different ones, or that he can somehow be changed into someone with more conventional desires. The quote also shows that Christian is asking Ana to be extremely vulnerable and trusting with him without reciprocating by trusting her.
I can't say that I enjoyed the experience. In fact, I would still go a long way to avoid it, but now... I have this safe, weird, bathed in afterglow, sated feeling. I put my head in my hands. I just don't understand.
After Ana ignores Christian telling her to stop rolling her eyes, he spanks her and then has sex with her. This quote appears as Ana tries to grapple with her feelings after this experience. The possibility of submitting to Christian is difficult for Ana for two reasons: she has philosophical objections to the idea of doing what someone else tells her, and she also dislikes physical pain. Nonetheless, she lets Christian experiment with some forms of punishment because she wants to please him. She is always left confused: she does experience pleasure during these encounters, especially because Christian always combines sex with her punishments. As the quote shows, Ana paradoxically finds a sense of safety and release in the total submission and lack of control which Christian demands from her. However, she cannot get to the point where she anticipates these encounters with anything other than dread.
Don't waste your energy on guilt, feelings of wrongdoing, etc. We are consenting adults and what we do behind closed doors is between ourselves. You need to free your mind and listen to your body.
This quote occurs in an email exchange between Christian and Ana, as she tries to explain her conflicted feelings about the physical punishment he subjects her to. Ana admits that she feels guilty and ashamed because she derives pleasure from these encounters. Christian tries to reassure her by urging her to reject these feelings. Christian does not feel any shame about his sexual desires: he keeps them private because he knows this knowledge could be exploited, especially since he is a rich and powerful man. Christian is someone who is used to being powerful and in a position of authority; for him, it makes no sense to care about what other people think. He knows that Ana does experience pleasure from these encounters and he wants her to focus on that. The quote shows Christian making an effort to get Ana to be more self-assured, but it also reveals how he can be dismissive. He doesn't make much effort to listen to her feelings, but simply tells her to stop having them. Christian is used to controlling everything, and therefore he thinks he can dominate Ana's feelings in the same way he dominates her body.
What I think you fail to realize is that in Dom/sub relationships, it is the sub who has all the power. That's you. I'll repeat this—you are the one with all the power.
As Ana travels to Georgia to reflect on their relationship, she and Christian exchange emails trying to explain their respective positions. Christian knows that Ana is afraid of being powerless and vulnerable. From his perspective, he knows he will always respect the boundaries she sets, and would never violate a limit. He can assert physical dominance, but only with her permission. When Christian alludes to Ana having all the power, he also implicitly refers to the emotional connection he has with her. Unlike with his previous submissives, Christian has been willing to compromise with Ana and try to accommodate some of her needs. Although it doesn't appear that way to her, Christian is actually very vulnerable because he is terrified of losing Ana.
The BDSM is a distraction from the real issue. The sex is amazing, he's wealthy, he's beautiful, but all that is meaningless without his love and the real heart-fail is that I don't know if he's capable of love. He doesn't even love himself.
This quote shows the moment of insight Ana has just before she leaves Georgia to return to Seattle. She has to admit to herself that she loves Christian, and that she wants him to love her in return. However, Christian has a history of trauma which has led him to close himself off from people, and refuse to give or receive love. Ana does not feel confident that he can engage with her in the way she needs, because every time she tries to achieve emotional intimacy with Christian he pushes her away. The quote is important because it shows Ana separating her doubts about BDSM from the larger context of their relationship. If Christian was being a loving and reliable partner, she would likely be fine with experimenting with these sexual practices. However, because she doesn't feel emotionally safe in the relationship, she also doesn't feel safe being physically dominated.
This is a man in need. His fear is naked and obvious, but he's lost... somewhere in his darkness. His eyes are wide and bleak and tortured. I can soothe him, join him briefly in the darkness and bring him into the light.
This quote occurs right before Ana asks Christian to subject her to the worst punishment he is capable of. She is becoming increasingly frustrated with his refusal to talk to her about his past or his emotions, even though it is clear that they are tormenting him. Ana doesn't know how else to get through to him, and she wonders if offering the total submission she has withheld up until this point might break down his defenses. Even though she doesn't say it, what Ana offers is an exchange: she will offer total physical surrender to Christian in hopes of him offering her emotional surrender in return. She is hopeful that this act will bring her and Christian into true intimacy, which she describes using the metaphor of moving from darkness into light. However, the experience of intense physical punishment ends up pushing the two of them apart.
I have had my eyes opened and glimpsed the extent of his depravity, and I now know he's not capable of of love—giving or receiving love. My worst fears have been realized. And strangely, it's liberating.
This quote occurs when Ana accepts that she will have to end her relationship with Christian. By pushing him to show her the limits of his desires, she finally understands what being with him would actually require of her. Ana interprets the physical pain Christian is willing to subject her to as evidence that he doesn't love her. Unlike some of their previous experiments with BDSM, she does not experience any pleasure when Christian hits her with a belt. She only feels frightened, angry, and disgusted. These feelings are powerful enough that Ana finally stands up for herself. As the quote describes, she finds it liberating to finally be honest and assert her limits. Throughout the relationship, she has been pushing herself in order to please Christian, but now she finally draws a line.
Fifty Shades of Grey Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fifty Shades of Grey is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.