The Secret Room Summary
by Alain Robbe-Grillet

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The Secret Room Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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A macabre scene unfolds before the reader like a motion picture in slow motion as a close shot of crimson streaks slowly pulls back from a small detail without context opened to reveal a broad shot of a vast room with massive columns and a great staircase shaped in a helix that rises up into the darkness. A silver incense burner issues out scrolls of smoke, providing partial context for a woman stretched out on the floor with blood streaming from a gruesome wound to one of her breasts. As from out of the corner of an eye, readers catch a glimpse of a man in black, flowing cape, a mere silhouette fleeing to the top of the stairs.

Switching from a distant shot to a close-up view of the woman, the narrator describes the shape of the woman’s white, soft body, the colorful Oriental rug on which she is lying, and the purple color of the plush cushions that prop up her body. This secret chamber seems to stretch out for some distance, and its immensity suggests there are probably other strange and chilling scenes similar to this being enacted in other niches and passageways. The woman appears to light the room with her glowing white body.

Rewind. Now the scene seems to be played backward. The darkly dressed man is again at the foot of the steps and has taken his first step up the winding staircase. These steps narrow as they wind upward, leading to a temple or theater. As the mysterious man reaches the third step, he turns to look at the bound and helpless woman for the last time, his black, swirling cape revealing a red lining with intricate gold embroidery. He looks concerned and frightened, as if something unexpected will happen as his hand reaches for a balustrade that is not there. He looks at the woman chained in a cross-shaped configuration. She is fastened to the thick columns and floor by iron rings that are used to restrain animals. Her right arm and leg are obscured by the darkness, but the left arm and leg can be seen in the most minute detail. The chain has cut into her ankles and the rug is crumpled, apparently from her...

(The entire section is 575 words.)