Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby Literary Elements


Roman Polanski

Leading Actors/Actresses

Mia Farrow, Guy Cassevetes

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly, Angela Dorian


Psychological horror




Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon); Golden Globe award for Most Promising Female Newcomer (Mia Farrow)

Date of Release

June 12th, 1968


William Castle

Setting and Context

"The Bramford," an apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side

Narrator and Point of View

Rosemary is the viewer's point of identification. We are initially as oblivious to the coven's presence as she is, and Polanski uses point-of-view shots to capture the moments in which Rosemary is piecing together evidence and information, much like the viewer does.

Tone and Mood

The film's mood is largely one of dread and terror, given its gothic source material. There are also occasional flashes of sardonic comedy, such as Ruth Gordon's characterization of Minnie Castevet, and comedienne Patsy Kelly's performance as obstinate coven member Laura-Louise.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Rosemary; Antagonist: The Marcato Coven

Major Conflict

Rosemary is the clear protagonist of the film, appearing in every scene. The film famously has several antagonists; in fact, the last third of the film is dedicated to Rosemary's systematic discovery that everyone around her has been collaborating in a plot against her since the beginning. The name of Hutch's book—"All of them witches"—references this turn of events.


The climax of the film occurs when Rosemary wanders through the secret passageway connecting her apartment to the Castevets and sees the Marcato coven gathered around her baby. There Roman tells her the "family secret" that has been driving the gothic narrative: Satan, not Guy, is the baby's father.


Many aspects foreshadow Rosemary's eventual discovery: Hutch warns her early on about The Bramford's sinister past; she hears Minnie discussing the plot through the bedroom walls; she sees the Tannis charm around Terry's neck before Terry commits suicide; Dr. Sapirstein ignores her reports of pain; Roman issues a sinister toast at his New Year's party; Minnie forces her to consume vitamin drinks; and a receptionist tells Rosemary that Dr. Sapirstein wears aftershave that smells like the Tannis charm.


When Rosemary insists on throwing a party in spite of her severe pain, she tells Guy "Haven't you heard? It'll go away in a day or two." Her understatement ironically reflects the callous dismissiveness with which Dr. Sapirstein has greeted her reports of pain.

Innovations in Filming or Lighting or Camera Techniques

Polanski's dream sequences playfully combine real and imagined elements within a single frame, jarring the viewer into questioning the reality of what is happening. This cinematic strategy foregrounds the notion of visual perception, and encourages the viewer to consider whether they can believe their perceptions, which is a problem Rosemary also has.


The yellow wallpaper behind Rosemary and Guy's bed is an allusion to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper." Rosemary alludes to the 1960s Broadway plays Luther and Nobody Loves an Albatross. Roman alludes to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century legends of the stage like Minnie Maddern Fiske, Helena Modjeska, and Henry Irving.


Rosemary's intuition often forms a paradox in relation to the male authority figures around her. When she experiences severe pain, the men around her ignore it and promise it will "go away." Instead of gaining weight when she becomes pregnant, she loses weight. In the inverted version of the Immaculate Conception allegory, Rosemary gives birth to the antichrist, rather than Jesus Christ.


Polanski regularly shows religion and theater to be parallel enterprises. Guy calls all religions "showbiz," and Roman agrees, given the costumes and the rituals that they involve. The Marcato family is also wrapped up in the theater world, and the deeper Guy plunges into their satanic plot, the more successful he becomes in his acting career.