“Rosemary’s Baby” (Post 2/3)


[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 3/3

[31] Levin often has two people (usually couples) speak in the same paragraph. It’s technically incorrect but it shows the two characters as one entity and/or gives the sense of simultaneous speaking.

“Yes,” Rosemary said, and Guy said, “And the artistic thrill, too.”



Rosemary said, “I didn’t know it was owned by a church,” and Guy said, “The whole city is, honey.”



“It’s news to me,” Mrs. Castavet said, and Mr. Castavet said, “To both of us.”



“Thank you,” Mrs. Castavet said, and Mrs. Castavet said, “It’s nice of you to tell us that. It makes it a little easier.”


[32] Rosemary’s dream sequences mix dream-thoughts with dialogue coming from the outside. In this scene, she seamlessly goes from thinking to sleeping to hearing the Castavets arguing on the other side of their shared apartment wall. Levin will later show us the most incredible event of the book through this dream/reality mix (note [47]).

Rosemary lay awake beside him, seeing Terry’s pulped face and her one eye watching the sky. After a while, though, she was at Our Lady. Sister Agnes was shaking her fist at her, ousting her from leadership of the second-floor monitors. “Sometimes I wonder how come you’re the leader of anything!” she said. A bump on the other side of the wall woke Rosemary, and Mrs. Castavet said, “And please don’t tell me what Laura-Louise said because I’m not interested!”


[33] Reference:

Rosemary, folding a Chemex paper, told her.



The Chemex Coffeemaker is a manual, pour-over style glass-container coffeemaker, invented in 1941. A Chemex paper is a coffee filter for the machine.


“Well, he is the pope,” Rosemary said. “I guess I’ve been conditioned to have respect for him and I still do, even if I don’t think he’s holy any more.”

“If you don’t think he’s holy,” Mr. Castavet said, “you should have no respect for him at all, because he’s going around deceiving people and pretending he is holy.”

“Good point,” Guy said.


[35] The first of two beautiful examples of cold reading (see also Post 3, note [79]):

“That’s strange,” Mr. Castavet said; “I was quite certain that you were his understudy. I remember being struck by a gesture you made and checking in the program to see who you were; and I could swear you were listed as Finney’s understudy.”

“What gesture do you mean?” Guy asked.

“I’m not sure now; a movement of your-”

“I used to do a thing with my arms when Luther had the fit, a sort of involuntary reaching-“

“Exactly,” Mr. Castavet said. “That’s just what I meant. It had a wonderful authenticity to it.” (…)

[Guy] cast a bright-eyed glance at Rosemary. She smiled back, pleased that Guy was pleased.


Any actor would remember a gesture they made in a performance, even an actor without a speaking role. Roman can cast his line and be sure to catch something while also gaining Guy’s trust and liking. The irony of Mr. Castavet complimenting Guy’s gesture on its “wonderful authenticity” while lying himself is such a great touch.

[36] References:

“My father was a theatrical producer,” Mr. Castavet said, “and my early years were spent in the company of such people as Mrs. Fiske and Forbes-Robertson, Otis Skinner and Modjeska.”



Minnie Maddern Fiske (1865 – 1932), often billed simply as Mrs. Fiske, was one of the leading American actresses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1853 – 1937) was an English actor and theater manager. He was considered the finest Hamlet of the Victorian era and one of the finest actors of his time.

Otis Skinner (1858 – 1942) was a popular American stage actor active during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Helena Modjeska (1840 – 1909) was a renowned actress who specialized in Shakespearean and tragic roles.


Rosemary wiped dishes at Mrs. Castavet’s elbow, working diligently and conscientiously in the pleasing knowledge that her own kitchen was larger and more graciously equipped.


[38] Reference:

“He knew Henry Irving, too,” Guy said. “It’s really terrifically interesting.”



Henry Irving (1838 – 1905) was an English stage actor in the Victorian era. In 1895 he became the first actor to be awarded a knighthood. Irving was one of the inspirations for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula.

[39] References:

Rosemary straightened up the kitchen and was debating whether to work on the window-seat cushions or get into bed with Manchild in The Promised Land when the doorbell rang. It was Mrs. Castavet, and with her another woman, short, plump, and smiling, with a Buckley-for-Mayor button on the shoulder of a green dress.



Manchild in the Promised Land (1965) is an autobiographical novel by Claude Brown. It tells about the author’s coming of age amidst poverty and violence in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s.

William F. Buckley Jr (1925 – 2008) was an American conservative author and commentator. In 1965, he ran for mayor of New York City as the candidate for the new Conservative Party. He tried to take votes away from the relatively liberal Republican candidate John Lindsay, who later became a Democrat (note [58]). Buckley did not expect to win; when asked what he would do if he won the race, Buckley responded, “Demand a recount.” Buckley finished third with 13.4%.

[40] Levin almost always uses said, even when a question is being asked. He reserves asked for moments of true perplexity.

“For me?” Rosemary asked. “I don’t understand.”


[41] Reference:

“The green inside is called tannis root,” Mrs. Castavet said. “It’s good luck.”


Tannis root (the “Devil’s Pepper”) is an invention of Levin. Though:

Rauvolfia vomitoria, the poison devil’s-pepper is a plant species in the genus Rauvolfia. Every part of the tree is toxic.

[42] Reference:

Rosemary went into the bedroom and opened a drawer in the vanity where she had a tin Louis Sherry box full of odds and ends.



Louis Sherry (1855 – 1926) was an important American restaurateur, caterer, confectioner and hotelier during the Gilded age and early 20th century. His name is typically associated with an upscale brand of candy and ice cream. Louis Sherry chocolates come in tins (and are pricey; $8.50 for a tin with two chocolates).

[43] References:

Guy coming out of the bedroom with one rose and a forgive-me smile, like a reading he had once done for her of Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird.



Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1959 play by Tennessee Williams which tells the story of a gigolo and drifter, Chance Wayne, who returns to his home town as the companion of a faded movie star whom he hopes to use to help him break into movies.

[44] Reference:

“Even if this thing falls through, even if I’m Charley Cresta Blanca for the rest of my days, I’m going to stop giving you the short end of the stick.”



Cresta Blanca Winery is one of the original Livermore Valley (Califoronia) wineries, founded in 1882.

I’m guessing it has/had a reputation of plainness (or cheapness?), at least in 1965. Otherwise, I’m not sure what Guy means by this.

[45] Reference:

He had told her not to make a dessert; he would bring home his absolute all-time favorite, a Horn and Hardart pumpkin pie.



Horn & Hardart was a food services company in the United States, noted for operating the first food service automats in Philadelphia and New York City. They incorporated as the Horn & Hardart Baking Company in 1898.

[46] Much of this story is made possible because of Rosemary’s inability to express her wishes. She lives in a society that sees assertive women as disrespectful and shrewish.

Rosemary is the youngest of a large family and this contributes to her seeing everyone around her as an authority figure. It’s not that she’s afraid to stand up for herself; she simply doesn’t consider the possibility.

This is not weakness but acceptance of a role. Even now, many women act this way in order to be good daughters, wives, mothers, etc.

The mousse was excellent, but it had a chalky undertaste that reminded Rosemary of blackboards and grade school. Guy tried but could find no “undertaste” at all, chalky or otherwise. Rosemary put her spoon down after two swallows. Guy said, “Aren’t you going to finish it? That’s silly, honey; there’s no ‘undertaste.’ ”

Rosemary said there was.

“Come on,” Guy said, “the old bat slaved all day over a hot stove; eat it.”

“But I don’t like it,” Rosemary said.

“It’s delicious.”

“You can have mine.”

Guy scowled. “All right, don’t eat it,” he said; “you don’t wear the charm she gave you, you might as well not eat her dessert too.” (…)

“Oh-” Rosemary picked up her spoon. “If it’s going to turn into a big scene-” She took a full spoonful of the mousse and thrust it into her mouth.

“It isn’t going to turn into a big scene,” Guy said. “Look, if you really can’t stand it, don’t eat it.” (…)

[Rosemary] showily scraped clean the inside of the cup and swallowed down the scrapings as Guy came back to the table. “There, Daddy,” she said, tilting the cup toward him. “Do I get a gold star on my chart?”


The entire exchange is disturbing but especially Rosemary’s “There, Daddy,” at the end. Compare this with Post 3, note [64] to see how she changes (and how satisfying it is).

[47] The second dream sequence. Rosemary has been drugged with a mousse and is (for lack of a better description) raped by the devil. Dreams and hallucinations in books are often too obvious or obtuse to be interesting but Levin uses dream logic very well, incorporating bits of Rosemary’s life and recent conversations with the nonsensical connections we accept while sleeping.

“Just a nap,” she said, and was sitting with a drink in her hand on President Kennedy’s yacht. It was sunny and breezy, a perfect day for a cruise. The president, studying a large map, gave terse and knowing instructions to a Negro mate.

Guy had taken off the top of her pajamas. “Why are you taking them off?” she asked.

“To make you more comfortable,” he said.

“I’m comfortable.”

“Sleep, Ro.”

He undid the snaps at her side and slowly drew off the bottoms. Thought she was asleep and didn’t know. Now she had nothing on at all except a red bikini, but the other women on the yacht – Jackie Kennedy, Pat Lawford, and Sarah Churchill – were wearing bikinis too, so it was all right, thank goodness. The President was in his Navy uniform. He had completely recovered from the assassination and looked better than ever.



It was the first time the Sistine Chapel had been opened to the public and she was inspecting the ceiling on a new elevator that carried the visitor through the chapel horizontally, making it possible to see the frescoes exactly as Michelangelo, painting them, had seen them. How glorious they were! She saw God extending his finger to Adam, giving him the divine spark of life; and the underside of a shelf partly covered with gingham contact paper as she was carried backward through the linen closet. “Easy,” Guy said, and another man said, “You’ve got her too high.”



“She’s awake, she sees!” Guy whispered to Minnie. He was large-eyed, tense. “She don’t see,” Minnie said. “As long as she ate the mouse she can’t see nor hear. She’s like dead. Now sing.”

Jackie Kennedy came into the ballroom in an exquisite gown of ivory satin embroidered with pearls. “I’m so sorry to hear you aren’t feeling well,” she said, hurrying to Rosemary’s side.

Rosemary explained about the mouse-bite, minimizing it so Jackie wouldn’t worry. (…)

The Pope came in with a suitcase in his hand and a coat over his arm. “Jackie tells me you’ve been bitten by a mouse,” he said.

“Yes,” Rosemary said. “That’s why I didn’t come see you.” She spoke sadly, so he wouldn’t suspect she had just had an orgasm.

“That’s all right,” he said. “We wouldn’t want you to jeopardize your health.”

“Am I forgiven, Father?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” he said. He held out his hand for her to kiss the ring. Its stone was a silver filigree ball less than an inch in diameter; inside it, very tiny, Anna Maria Alberghetti sat waiting.

Rosemary kissed it and the Pope hurried out to catch his plane.



Patricia Kennedy Lawford (1924 – 2006) was an American socialite and the sixth of nine children or Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. She married English actor Peter Lawford in 1954, but they experienced a serious culture-class and divorced in 1966.

Sarah Churchill, Baroness Audley, (1914 – 1982) was a British actress and dancer. She was the second daughter of Winston Churchill. Her third marriage (1962-63) was to Thomas Touchet-Jesson, the 23rd Baron Audley.

[48] The most frightening thing in this book isn’t the coven of witches or the antichrist: it’s Rosemary living in a world where she is so marginalized. She doesn’t have a voice. Guy sees her as a maid, cook, and piece of property. She is not a human the way he is a human.

“Hey, it’s after nine,” Guy said, shaking her shoulder.

She pushed his hand away and turned over onto her stomach. “Five minutes,” she said, deep in the pillow.

“No,” he said, and yanked her hair. “I’ve got to be at Dominick’s at ten.

“Eat out.”

“The hell I will.” He slapped her behind through the blanket.


The morning after her drugged rape, Rosemary finds scratches on herself. Guy, to cover, claims he was the one who did it. And we get the saddest scene in the book:

“I didn’t want to miss Baby Night,” he said.

“You mean you-”

“And a couple of my nails were ragged.”

“While I was – out?”

He nodded and grinned. “It was kind of fun,” he said, “in a necrophile sort of way. (…) I tried to wake you,” he said, “but you were out like a light.”

She turned further away and swung her legs out on the other side of the bed.

“What’s the matter?” Guy asked.

“Nothing,” she said, sitting there, not looking around at him. “I guess I feel funny about your doing it that way, with me unconscious.”

“I didn’t want to miss the night,” he said.

“We could have done it this morning or tonight. Last night wasn’t the only split second in the whole month. And even if it had been…”

I thought you would have wanted me to,” he said, and ran a finger up her back.

She squirmed away from it. “It’s supposed to be shared, not one awake and one asleep,” she said. Then: “Oh, I guess I’m being silly.”


Rosemary has every right to be angry and upset but she backs down on her own. She is unable to assert her feelings to Guy and settles on calling herself “silly”. I first read Rosemary’s Baby in my early twenties and didn’t see anything sad or wrong or strange in this scene; it didn’t stick with me at all (other than Guy’s “necrophile” statement coming off as kind of creepy).

And I didn’t grow up in the fifties. We’re talking ten years ago. That’s the scary part.

[49] Reference:

His play was going into rehearsal November first – Don’t I Know You From Somewhere? was the name of it.


This play (which is later said to have changed titles several times and is basically a bomb), is an invention of Levin’s.

[50] Reference:

It was awkward and charming and sincere, like his playing of the cowboy in Bus Stop.



Bus Stop is a 1955 play by William Inge. Bo Decker, a character in the play, is a brash young cowboy with boorish manners that hides a profound naiveté.

[51] Reference:

Hutch had a cabin near Brewster where he spent occasional weekends.



A village within the town of Southeast in Putnam County, New York. It is about an hour north of New York City.

[52] Reference:

A sofa that had belonged to Madame Pompadour.



Madame de Pompadour (1721 – 1764) was a member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV. Later, she became a close friend and confidant to the king. She was a major patron of architecture and decorative arts.

[53] Reference:

“She’s from a place called – believe it or not – Bushyhead, Oklahoma.”



A census-designated place in Rogers County, Oklahoma. The population was 1,314 at the 2010 census. The community was named for Dennis W. Bushyhead, Principal Chief of the Cherokee (1879 – 1887).

[54] Reference:

[She] read Flight of the Falcon by Daphne du Maurier.



The Flight of the Falcon (1965) tells the story of a man who becomes circumstantially involved in the murder of an old peasant woman in Rome. The murder connects to his childhood, causing him to return to his haunted home.

[55] Reference:

He looked a little bit like Dr. Kildare on television.



Dr. James Kildare is a fictional American medical doctor, originally created in the 1930s in magazine stories and books. He was later featured in film, a radio series, comics, and two television series. The series that ran from 1961 to 1966 (called Dr. Kildare) starred Richard Chamberlain.

[56] Reference:

“Wasn’t he on Open End a couple of years ago?”



The David Susskind Show was an American television talk show hosted by David Susskind (1920 – 1987). The program was titled Open End from 1958 – 1966, and was broadcast in New York City. The title referred to the fact that the program continued until Susskind or his guests were too tired to continue late on a Sunday night (later, it was contained to two hours).


[57] Reference:

Despite the Mies van der Rohe chairs and cool marble tables of his waiting room [he] was reassuringly old-fashioned and direct.



Ludwig Mies van de Rohe (1886 – 1969) was a German-American architect. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. He is often associated with his quotations of the aphorisms, “less is more” and “God is in the details.”

A Rohe chair refers to the Barcelona chair.

[58] Reference:

[She] voted on Election Day (for Lindsay for mayor).



John Lindsay (1921 – 2000) was an American politician, lawyer, and broadcaster who was a U.S. congressman, mayor of New York City (1966 – 1973), and candidate for U.S. president. He switched from the Republican to the Democratic party in 1971.

In the 1965 mayoral race, he won over Democrat Abraham D. Beame and Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr (note [39]).


Salt, she found, even a few grains of it, made food inedible.



Salt was still nauseating, but what, after all, was salt?


Salt is symbolically important in many religions and cultures, often believed to ward off evil spirits or to purify people and places. No wonder the devil’s child wouldn’t like it…

[60] Reference:

“What was he before he became a Golden Ager?”



noun – an old and often retired person.

Post 3/3


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