Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Rose (Symbol)

Roses symbolize Rosemary's womanhood and motherhood in a virtuous, ideal state. The symbol appears in Rosemary's very name, which conjoins "rose" to "mary," also the name of Jesus's mother in the Bible. Roses, flowers, and floral imagery signify Rosemary's feminine energy and power: Guy offers her roses when he apologizes to her, and she is trying to arrange roses when Elise and the other women console her in the party scene. The natural beauty and symbolism of the rose contrasts with the Tannis charm, which is a deceptive, foul-smelling mold or fungus.

Jesus and the Virgin Mary (allegory)

Polanski aims to turn Rosemary's bearing of the antichrist into a kind of satanic allegory of the immaculate conception. In this version, rather than becoming divinely impregnated by God, Rosemary/The Virgin Mary is impregnated by Satan. Imagery and symbolism linking the Catholic Church to satanism are rife throughout the film's dream sequences, such as the nun speaking in Minnie Castevet's voice in Rosemary's first dream, and the Pope wearing the Tannis charm in her second. In this inverted Biblical tale, Rosemary/The Virgin Mary gives birth not to Jesus, but to Adrian, the son of the devil, leading Roman to exclaim "God is dead!"

Acting (motif)

The notions of acting and performance, in their various social forms and artistic registers, are central to Polanski's film. In the film's opening lines of dialogue, Guy "acts" like a doctor before Rosemary reveals he's an actor. The Bramford itself has a storied history involving actors and theatrical professionals. Roman reveals his father was a theatrical producer and mentions stage legends like Minnie Maddern Fiske, after whom Minnie seems to have been named. Minnie and Roman adjust the "scenery" of their apartment (removing pictures from the walls) before their first "performance" for Rosemary and Guy. Roman likens the Catholic Church to "showbiz"β€”an institution only concerned with promoting its image. Rosemary eventually deduces that Guy and Dr. Sapirstein are merely performing for her benefit as well, realizing she is the target of a conspiracy.

Tannis charm (symbol)

The Tannis charm given to Rosemary by Minnie Castevet is an early indicator that a plot against her is in motion. Disguised as a friendly gift, the scene generates irony from the fact that we, like Rosemary, have already seen the Tannis charm around the neck of Terry Gionoffrio, something Minnie does not know. The charm symbolizes secrecy, trickery, and evil: Minnie says it contains an herbal "Tannis" root, which Hutch later points out doesn't exist. What it actually contains is a foul smelling mold or fungus called "Devil's Pepper." A receptionist later tells Rosemary that Dr. Sapirstein's aftershave emits the same odor, cluing her in to his complicity.

Hall closet (symbol)

A large secretary blocks the hall closet in the opening scene of the film, indicating that the barrier between the Woodhouses' apartment and the Castevets' apartment is still fully sealed. Rosemary and Guy have not yet fallen prey to the clutches of The Bramford's satanic coven. Rosemary later finds shelves in the closet, and serves dinner on one on the floor when she and Guy are moving in, indicating that the seal has been "broken." The film ironically exploits the fact that the coven is able to invade the Woodhouses' apartment even after Rosemary has locked and chained the only door. Finally, Rosemary realizes the hall closet contains a secret passageway joining the two apartments, a symbol for the way in which the coven has violated her body and private, domestic space.