The mistress uses her maid as a vehicle for heat in order to bring luster to the pearls. However, the pearl necklace acts as a vehicle between them, bearing heat and allowing intimacy that the characters cannot find elsewhere. The necklace also suggests the possibility that the sexual tension that the speaker feels is one-sided. At the end of the poem, the heat on the pearls dissipates into the mistress's room, and the speaker burns with more heat than ever. The attraction between the characters may never be fully realized, and even if it is, the homophobic, stratified society of Victorian England would not allow a full romantic relationship to exist between the two women. The transfer of the speaker's heat to the pearls is a futile gesture; it connects the characters physically and spiritually, but it does not last.
Temperature is crucial in this poem, and it intertwines with the characters' social classes and sexuality. The speaker is warmed, perhaps by her physical labor, and this allows her to be a perfect heat source for warming the pearls; her mistress, on the other hand, is cool in temperature; she does not have to work, and spends her time living off of the "heat" of others. However, at the end of the poem, the maid "burns" with the absence of the pearls—as if their presence had helped to regulate her temperature, too. This burning sensation represents this character's sexual frustration; the ritual of transferring the pearls is the one form that allows the intimacy to circulate, and the speaker feels that her heat is trapped in her body when she is not transferring it to her mistress, via the necklace.
The rabbit's foot (symbol)
A rabbit's foot is known to signify luck. This subtly suggests that the speaker is looking for such luck to help her become closer to her mistress, the object of her desire. The foot also contrasts with the fabrics mentioned earlier, silk and taffeta; the foot is coarser, a trinket of superstitious origin and part of a dead creature. With it, the speaker's mistress blushes, releasing heat like the speaker does to the pearls. This moment makes the relationship between the women feel more mutual.
Warming Her Pearls Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Warming Her Pearls is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.