The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

Brief Intro

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a 2007 biographical drama film directed by Julian Schnabel. The film is based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist who, after suffering a massive stroke, is left with “locked-in syndrome.” The movie poignantly depicts his struggle to communicate and connect with the world despite his condition.

Literary Devices Used in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

  1. Symbolism
Movie SceneDevice Example
Bauby’s dream of flying in a diving bellThe diving bell symbolizes his trapped body
The butterfly in the hospital courtyardThe butterfly represents his liberated mind
  1. Imagery
Movie SceneDevice Example
Bauby’s description of the beachVivid imagery of the ocean and sand
The hospital garden sequencesRich imagery of flowers and greenery
  1. Metaphor
Movie SceneDevice Example
“The Diving Bell” as his paralyzed bodyRepresents the heaviness and confinement
“The Butterfly” as his spiritRepresents freedom and imagination
  1. Flashback
Movie SceneDevice Example
Bauby reminisces about his life before the strokeProvides context and depth to his character
Memories of time spent with his childrenHighlights his emotional connections
  1. Stream of Consciousness
Movie SceneDevice Example
Internal monologues of Bauby’s thoughtsReflects his mental state and emotions
Sequences where Bauby recalls his pastOffers a fluid, introspective narrative
  1. Personification
Movie SceneDevice Example
Bauby’s descriptions of his eyelidHis eyelid “becomes” a character in itself
The hospital machines “whispering”Personification of the medical equipment
  1. Irony
Movie SceneDevice Example
Bauby’s life as a fashion editor versus his current stateDramatic irony in his condition
His plans to write a book post-strokeSituational irony due to his physical state
  1. Allusion
Movie SceneDevice Example
References to historical and cultural eventsAdds layers of meaning and context
Allusions to classic literature and artDeepens the narrative’s cultural texture
  1. Juxtaposition
Movie SceneDevice Example
Juxtaposing Bauby’s internal world and external realityHighlights the contrast between mind and body
Scenes of the hospital and memories of ParisContrast between confinement and freedom
  1. Motif
Movie SceneDevice Example
Recurrent imagery of the seaSymbolizes vastness and freedom
Repeated use of reflective surfacesMirrors and windows as motifs of perception

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

SymbolismBauby’s physical state as a diving bell
FlashbackProvides depth to Bauby’s character
Stream of ConsciousnessReveals Bauby’s internal struggle
ImageryEnriches the portrayal of his memories
MetaphorHis body as the diving bell, mind as the butterfly

Character Dynamics

  • Jean-Dominique Bauby and his Caregivers: The relationship between Bauby and his caregivers, particularly his speech therapist, showcases themes of patience, empathy, and the power of human connection. Literary devices like flashback and juxtaposition highlight the emotional bond and mutual growth.
  • Bauby and His Family: Through flashbacks and internal monologues, the film explores Bauby’s complex relationships with his family. The irony of his previous neglect versus his current dependency deepens the emotional resonance of these dynamics.

Thematic Analysis

Isolation and Freedom

SymbolismThe diving bell as a symbol of isolation
MetaphorThe butterfly as a symbol of freedom

Resilience and Hope

ImageryVivid scenes of nature and memory
FlashbackHighlights moments of hope and strength

The Power of Imagination

Stream of ConsciousnessShows the richness of Bauby’s internal life
PersonificationBrings abstract concepts to life

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
SymbolismCinematographyVisual motifs of the diving bell and butterfly
ImageryColor palette and lightingEnhances the vividness of memory scenes
Stream of ConsciousnessEditing and sound designReflects Bauby’s internal monologues
FlashbackTemporal shifts in narrativeSmooth transitions to past events
IronyJuxtaposition in visual storytellingHighlights contrasts between past and present

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

  1. Opening Scene (Bauby’s Awakening)
  2. Butterfly Sequence
  3. Memory of the Beach


To wrap up, let’s test your knowledge! Here’s an interactive multiple-choice quiz to see how well you’ve grasped the literary devices used in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”

Quiz Time!

  1. What does the diving bell symbolize?
    • A) Freedom
    • B) Isolation
    • C) Happiness
    • D) Communication
  2. Which literary device is used to describe Bauby’s memories?
  3. The butterfly in the film represents:
    • A) Bauby’s physical state
    • B) His mind’s freedom
    • C) His caregivers
    • D) His past life