The Symbolism in "Corpse Bride" Directed by Tim Burton

by Arielle Reed

"Corpse Bride," directed by Tim Burton, is a stop-motion animated journey into the world of the dead. Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), is betrothed to Victoria. But he accidentally becomes married to Emily, a dead woman (voice of Helena Bonham Carter). She has waited for her true love to free her soul. Victor, who's in love with Victoria, is not content to stay in the world of the dead, and he must find a way to free himself of his bride.

The Maggot

A maggot lives in the corpse bride's skull, and he seems to be her conscience, even making a joke about it. Though -- as her intention is to marry someone who does not wish to marry her -- the maggot is more like the embodiment of a combo shoulder devil-angel. He seems to be her inner monologue, as he tends to encourage her to seek her desires, good or evil.


Butterflies appear at the beginning and end of the film. In the beginning, Victor releases a single butterfly, a bit of hope. At the end Emily, the corpse bride, transforms into dozens of butterflies, and because all is well, this symbolizes of an outpour of love and hope. Significant of beauty and happiness, the butterflies represent hope, the love Victoria and Victor share, and the transformation of the town.


In the style of Dia de los Muertos, the world of the dead is outrageous and colorful, unlike the predominantly blue world of the living. This lends to the attitude that death is nothing to fear and is freeing for the soul, rather than a tragedy. The dead eagerly greet the new dead, and they seem to have a penchant for dance and frivolity, which in the world of the living are improper.


The crows, representative of death, signify grim happenings in the world of the living. This is a common symbol of the fright of death to the living, a reflection of how society views death, rather than the colorful adventure it actually is in the film.

Emily's Eye

Emily often loses and eye throughout the storyline. This is symbolic of her situation leaving her half-blind to the events around her, as even though she was murdered by her husband-to-be, she never knew he was the one who killed her. She is also blind to Victor's pleas that he did not intentionally marry her, and that he cannot be married to a corpse for he is still alive.

About the Author

Arielle Reed started writing professionally in 2007 for the Alverno College student paper "The Alpha" where she acquired a Bachelor of Arts in interactive media design. She is currently pursuing her Master of Science in communications at Eastern Washington University.

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