Read just one page of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and it will be obvious that these fairy tales aren’t meant for children. Full of Gothic imagery, violence and sex, her take on traditional fairy tales show that she is much more concerned with representing feminist ideals than staying true to the original tales. Carter disagreed with the way women were always depicted in the traditional fairy tales, believing that the message being sent to young girls was that women were weak and powerless and always required a strong, handsome man to come save the day.
It was through her revised stories that she vocalized her opinions of women’s role in society and through these stories she showed that women could be strong. In this paper, I will show how Angela Carter used feminism and sexuality as writing tools when revising and retelling popular fairy tales. Her revisions of fairy tales were important to the Feminist Movement and literature in general because it gave women a voice in a genre in which they historically hadn’t been well portrayed.
While one of Carter’s chief purposes was to further her Feminist ideals, her book was quality literature and gave positive themes and morals to women. The combination of these things is why The Bloody Chamber is one of the most successful feminist works and why these stories have stood the test of time.
For the exception of tales by Hans Christian Anderson, most fairy tales originated orally and were passed down. As with all oral stories, they tended to change and each evolved with each person that told them, as some people added to or took away from the pervious version. The people that finally put the stories in print were predominantly male and therefore reflected the idea of the man saving the day in their versions.
Popular or not, those versions didn’t sit well with Carter and The Bloody Chamber was her response. Age-old stories, retold
Perception is sometimes the key. Carter doesn’t only retell the stories once, but some of the stories she has retold up to three times. Why? “Her main concern is not to show us how the exact same story appears different based on what a fallible narrator perceived; rather, she longs to show us how variable and seemingly similar stories are in the first place” (Unlocking 1).
Carter isn’t the first person to put their own spin on an existing story. Some argue that the handing down of a tale can be like a childhood game of “telephone” gone horribly awry, resulting in a completely different story after going through a number of people, or, in this case, generations.
The fairy tale stories in their purest form were oral tales that were passed down. These tales were not the clean fairy tales we know today, but were filled with violence and sex. In her collection of fairy tales, Carter in some way replaces this content that has since been sanitized. However, Carter does have her own feminist agenda and it is important to remember that she isn’t trying to restore the tales back to the closest original form for the good of literature. In fact, the sexuality contained in Carter’s versions probably would not even closely resemble that in the original oral tales.
It is also important to note that Carter isn’t simply aiming her revisions toward traditional fairy tales in general, but she is specifically targeting the works of Charles Perrault, only one of the many men responsible for traditional fairy tales as we know them. According to the handout, “Unlocking the Secrets of The Bloody Chamber,” Carter translated Perrault’s work into English a few years prior to publishing her revised versions, “and her reworkings of “Blue Beard,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Puss in Boots” responded directly to his ‘original’ tales (4).
Understanding that fairy tales in their most original form were the oral tales that were passed down from generation to generation, Carter reverted to the older versions and threw in a little of the influence of Sigmund Freud along the way. “In these tales, Carter re-injects the Freudian aspects Perrault elides and specifies outcomes that openly contradict the morals that Parrault appended to in his tales” (Unlocking 4).
It is these allusions to Freud that set her works apart from other similar revisions of famous fairy tales. Not only did she incorporate feminist view points into her stories, but she also worked Freud’s psychological theories into the mix as well. This allowed Carter to truly make a statement by doing more than merely telling a story – she also passed a message on to readers, subtle or not, exploring why certain characters may act as they do.
It is also these Freudian allusions that helped Carter fulfill her feminist agenda. Without these, it could be argued that infusing so much sexuality into the stories does more to demean women than to empower them. That would perhaps be a logical argument if the Freudian allusions did not explain the why. However, the introductions of such psychological elements make for a much deeper story.
According to Jeff VanderMeer in his essay on Angela Carter, he wrote that Carter’s writing contains a “sturdy non-didactic Feminism. Few writers have as successfully told stories within stories, created dense, baroque prose, and still, in the end, delivered on an emotional level” (3).
Carter was a feminist that believed that women should be portrayed as strong. She wasn’t simply concerned with the rights of women as some women who are called feminists are today. She was also concerned with how women were perceived. She knew that fairy tales are among the first impressions children get as they journey toward adulthood. Even as they get older, the majority of mainstream literature and other forms of entertainment are controlled primarily by men and therefore give the male perspective and very rarely showcase the strength of women. Carter’s main contribution to the feminist movement is the way she demonstrates the strength of women, most memorably by changing popular stories to give the perception of strong female characters.
It is easy to note that “The Bloody Chamber” is feminist literature by reading just the first couple paragraphs of the story, as the narrator is setting the scene for the reader by describing her new found independence in being married. It is in these initial paragraphs that Carter first foreshadows the danger and peril that will befall the narrator with phrases such as “away from the white, enclosed quietude of my mother’s apartment into the unguessable country of marriage” (1).
The twist comes as the mother is the one that saves the day, as she rides in to save her daughter. This is much different from the traditional fairy tales because Carter doesn’t have a man ride in on a white horse to save the day. As feminist writing goes, it is a fitting end keeping in tune with the scenario of mother’s always being willing to do anything to protect their children, regardless of how old they are. In this case, the mother actually does risk her own life to protect her child – one of the classic traits of feminist literature.
If it wasn’t for Carter’s strong feminist themes and somewhat inappropriate sexual innuendos, “The Bloody Chamber” would hardly be worth noting; adding it to the piles and piles of other literary works that simply collect dust on library shelves. It is essential to remember that the original fairy tales in their purest form were not free of the sex and violence that Carter breathes back into them. These ‘original’ fairy tales are not the same versions that are read in elementary schools. With that being said, it is plausible to argue that Carter isn’t doing anything especially rebellious or new to the genre.
In fact, she is actually doing a service to modern-day readers by bringing these tales back to readers with many of the original elements intact, even though she chooses to put her own social and political commentaries in the mix. In the opening paragraph of his article, “The subversive value of feminist fairy tales: overthrowing some Grimm stereotypes” Jody Regel says that “Much has been written about the sexism and classism of traditional fairy tales ‘the metaphors, the forms of relationship, in the patters of power and desire that are created in the text’ (Davies 1989:45), and how negative and destructive these can be to the development of a young girl’s female consciousness” (51).
Carter found these tales negative and destructive to young girls for a very different reason, when looking at the cookie-cutter fairy tales that were published by the powers that be (mainly men) and passed off to the children of the day as the morals and the road map to how they should live their life. A young girl with a critical mind could read something more into it: just by being born female she is substandard and incapable of taking care of herself, leaving her best option as being able to find a man that will protect her and save her from the various perils that she manages to find herself in. That’s not exactly the message that we should be passing to girls and that’s one point that Carter objected to.
Strong enough for a man, made for a woman
In the title story of “The Bloody Chamber,” it’s a woman that kills the bad guy. Talk about different and unexpected. If you ask me, that’s like suddenly changing the words to the National Anthem. Apparently, though, not everyone found these strange tales to be repulsive. In fact, women who viewed themselves as suppressed and without a voice for so long suddenly applauded Carter and crowned her a proverbial queen of the feminist movement. From there, it snowballed until her stories not only received attention, but they demanded it.
Carter’s revisions of these popular fairy tales contain a large amount of feminist ideals and, in many cases; the original message of the fairy tale is gone, replaced with Carter’s commentaries on different issues. Most notably, she used her stories to show the strength of women and show the weakness of men. Many of the stories contained in The Bloody Chamber place a female as the protagonist, while the men are portrayed as evildoers or play a very small role in the outcome of the story. It’s true that not every story replaces the man or even makes the man out to be the evil one. Still, the feminist traits are clearly present and Carter is showing that her women have what it takes to be every bit as strong as the hero.
One of the most shocking parts of Carter’s so called fairy tales is the content and how explicit and graphic some of the details actually are. Discussions and debates over The Bloody Chamber almost always include at least some analysis of the language, sexual content and violence, which are not at all commonplace in traditional fairy tales.
In Patricia Brooke’s article, “Lyons and Tigers and Wolves – Oh, My! Revisionary Fairy Tales in the Work of Angela Carter” she says that, “Fairy tales present Angela Carter with a range of subject matter for drawing out the beauty and the violence in gender and sexual formation. In deconstructing the tales, Carter reveals the false universalizing inherent in many so-called master narratives in the Western literary tradition” (67).
As illustrated with Brooke’s argument, Carter helped to change the way women are perceived in fairy tales and The Bloody Chamber was a successful collection largely because of that. Like Brooke, I believe that Carter’s intent was to reject the romantic idyllic voice and replace that with other voices and other perceptions of the same story.
Brooke contends that often the voices of the females “have been repressed by the official tellings of Perrault, Grimm or Disney” (67).
While they do serve a purpose in showing the strength of women, I can appreciate Carter’s interest in giving a female voice to a male-dominated genre. But, calling Carter’s stories fairy tales is like comparing South Park to Sesame Street. I don’t believe that Carter ever meant for children to read these stories, at least I hope that wasn’t her intended audience. Still, some critics argue that Carter was trying to change the message being sent to young girls.
According to Regel, the traditional fairy tales send messages to young girls that “their value lies in their looks and that the way people look naturally determines the way they behave. They are also conditioned through these tales to become passive and unadventurous – to wait for their charming prince to arrive and save them out of the limbo and insignificance of their lives” (51).
Regel suggests that the stereotypes and molds of traditional fairy tales can sometimes do a disservice. They are full of fantasy and show the world in a positive light, with a moral or message children can translate into their own lives. However, the majority of the stories do not show women as being strong. They show women in distress that would likely face certain death until a man – typically a very attractive man – comes to their rescue. Even the unattractive men in fairy tales – such as the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” – turned into a handsome prince after finding true love. The moral: beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and it’s what is on the inside that truly counts.
Regel does make some very valid points, but I am inclined to disagree. Why? I feel that Carter wasn’t interested in children at all. Children aren’t prominent in her stories and the language used definitely is not aimed toward kids. Want more proof of this? The name of her book was changed for United States release to The Bloody Chamber and other adult tales. That’s a title that is a lot more representative of the book’s intended audience. I contend that Carter only cared about furthering her personal beliefs and supporting the feminist ideals.
Dissecting The Bloody Chamber
Feminist writers such as Angela Carter rewrote the fairy tales to give an entirely new moral that would explain to females that women aren’t always the weak ones and they can be strong enough to take care of themselves and not wait for a knight on a white horse to show up and magically wisk them away from all the peril and live happily ever after. Feminist writers take different approaches to this task. Regel compared Carter’s writing with another feminist writer, Anne Sexton. He pointed out that, “The poetry of Anne Sexton tells the traditional fairytale in a satirical way, introducing new viewpoints and values. The story itself is not altered but observations and comparisons are made in such a way that the reader questions what the tale is trying to say and how the female characters are being portrayed” (51).
Sexton was altogether a different kind of writer than Carter and I believe that she had different goals. Therefore, it is almost impossible to make a meaningful comparison between the two writers, as the subject matter and a large amount of sexual content is the extent of the similarities of their works.
Carter completely changed the characters and the general plotline of the story to make her point. Basically, the only content of the stories that Carter really kept the same, in most cases, is the names of the characters. Even the roles the characters play in the story are sometimes altered.
Sexton’s poetry leaned toward the erotic side as well. Regel describes the way the male necrophilia and fetishism in her tale of “Snow White” is taken for granted as “disturbing” (55). However, he classifies Carter’s version of “Snow White” that is entitled “The Snow Child” as even more disturbing. “The Countess’s place is usurped by the child as is symbolized by the transfer of the Countess’s clothes onto her, leaving the Countess naked. Eventually the child dies and the Count gets off his horse and rapes her before the dead body of the girl melts away and the Countess is reclothed” (Regel 55).
Regel argues that Carter’s tale “exposes how the heroines of fairy tales are the constructs of patrichal thinking, based on the desire for destruction and sexual conquest” (55).
Continuing with her feminist themes, The Bloody Chamber goes a long way to break stereotypical molds of what a woman is and how she should act, in the context of how females are presented in fiction.
In her dissertation, Catherine Lappas examines how writers including Sexton, Carter, and Margaret Atwood attack some of the traditional ideas and create tales to suit the true feelings and desires of women. It is not a surprise that these stories were written by women, whereas the traditional fairy tales were predominantly told and written by men.
It is also important to note that the characters in Carter’s retellings are not the typical, average women. Many of Carter’s stories are rather dark. Iwona Maria Kubacki points out in her dissertation that Carter explores places that are grotesque and features characters such as vampires, bohemians and freaks. This type of setting sets her tales even further from the traditional fairy tales. Most traditional fairy tales are set in bright and cheery places with characters that are almost always extraordinarily attractive. Carter’s characters aren’t likely to win any beauty contests or even be taken seriously by mainstream society. This is one thing that gives an entirely new aspect to Carter’s revisions.
Despite her liberty with the content and her sheer crudeness in telling the story, Carter also gives a voice to the voiceless. She tells stories where the main character doesn’t have to be the stereotypical woman in order to be successful or loved.
It is impossible to look at Carter’s revision of the fairy tales without looking at both feminism and sexuality, as she uses the two concepts interchangeably in her writing.
For example, the short story “The Bloody Chamber” retells the story of Blue Beard, the pirate. Carter takes a character – the mother of the protagonist – that was barely mentioned in the original fairy tale and makes her a central character. The original tale portrayed the mother as being a lady and Carter turned the character into a powerful woman who has done many things including having “shot a man-eating tiger with her own hand” (7).
Carter goes into great depth describing the past adventures of the mother to make sure that readers interpret her as a very strong woman. In itself, changing the characterization of the mother doesn’t necessarily make the story feminist. According to critics, the part of “The Bloody Chamber” that makes it a feminist tale is the fact that Carter chose to make a hero out of the mother character, empowering her to save her daughter as seen in the line, “she raised my father’s gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband’s head” (40).
“The Bloody Chamber” is completely feminist largely for that reason – the protagonist doesn’t wait or look for a big, strong man to save her, as is true in most all-traditional fairy tales. Unlike the women in traditional fairy tales, the mother in “The Bloody Chamber” is strong enough to save the main character herself. To make the story even more of a feminist tale, she eliminated the two brothers, the only males in the story for the exception of Blue Beard. By doing that, she takes away all men that are represented at all positively. The only males that were left were the husband, who Carter portrays as pure evil, and Jean-Yves, the blind piano tuner.
Even though the collection of short stories is clearly feminist literature, Carter isn’t making all men out be evil. In the story, “The Lady in the House of Love” she even has a male virgin, representing purity and goodness. Just like in traditional fairy tales, the heroine has to overcome female antagonists too. The evil females are also strong women, who work hard for their beliefs just as the protagonist works hard in pursuit of what they want. Only one side wins and usually, especially in fairy tales, it is the protagonist, or “the good side.”
That being said, the antagonistic women don’t have the same set of values and beliefs as the protagonists and that, according to Patricia Brooke, is their downfall.
When compared to other stories in the collection, though, the title tale is relatively mild.
Female empowerment in fairy tales
In Carter’s works, there are cases of female empowerment in every story, keeping in tune with the feminist themes. Carter didn’t appear to be anti-man in the stories, as there are quite a few meaningful male characters. Still, the women contained in the stories of The Bloody Chamber are without a doubt a representation of how women would like to be perceived, at least in some ways. Although they do have their flaws and make mistakes, they exemplify strength, know-how and cleverness when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
It is impossible to look at the true value of female empowerment in these tales without looking at what was going on in Britain in the same time period. This was a period of change and industry, a movement that frequently left women with little to no opinion or authority on anything. The men were in charge and women could only hope to be valued in the home, as society believed that there was not a place for the female in the workforce of mainstream society. Angela Carter isn’t the only writer that has touched on this subject. In fact, a great many of the 20th century writers gave social commentaries and showed strong female characters valiantly battling the oppression that society mandated.
Roderick McGillis also touched on the concept of female empowerment in his book, A Little Princess: Gender and Empire. The book looks at Frances H. Burnett’s 1905 novel A Little Princess as a fairy tale and looks at how is goes to empower females, rather than make them seem weak as is how many traditional fairy tale writers portrayed female characters. “The backdrop of British imperialism, then, is clear. To this Burnett brings her interest in the role of the female in society” (16).
McGillis says that many other writers have pointed out that Burnett was interested in fairy tales, particularly “Cinderella,” and actually used that story as inspiration for some of her stories; including A Little Princess.
“The trials and tribulations of Sara Crewe, unlike those of ‘Cinderella,’ who is as sweet at the beginning of the story as she is in the end, produce maturity” (17).
McGillis also speaks of Burnett’s characterization of Sara Crewe. He points out, in his book, that Crewe displays both feminine and masculine characteristics. “She not only serves as a mother to Lottie, but she also offers bread to the populace. Sara impresses others with her generous nature” (41). In addition, Burnett makes Crewe a writer with an extremely vivid imagination, who has the ability to craft a story out of practically anything that happens. It is through these characteristics that Burnett is displaying more strengths – the strength of creativity, the strength of independence and the strength of individuality.
McGillis even delves deeper into the discussion of the representation of women, such as talking about how women treat other women who are viewed as being in a lower class and the role of women in society. Set in the backdrop of the imperialist movement, women – including Crewe – had to fight just to remain noticed or recognized.
There are definitely feminist views in A Little Princess as well as social commentary on the imperialist movement. While Burnett instilled those beliefs in a very child-friendly story, many feminist writers, such as Carter, opted to use sexual content to make the point.
Another trademark of feminist writing is women using their sexuality as a way to get what they want and to have a power or a hold over men. It’s the simple practice of giving a man what he wants in return for something they want. In some cases, the women who excel in this practice are viewed as promiscuous, so they are making little sacrifice to get what they want, which usually entails a substantial sacrifice on the part of the man.
In some of Carter’s stories, the main character is just the opposite – a virgin who holds her chastity as one of her most prized assets. Carter puts some of her young heroines in double danger by a man who threatens to rape her or otherwise violate her sexually, and then he would likely kill her.
That’s the case in “The Bloody Chamber.” Mary Kaiser’s article, “Fairy tale as sexual allegory: Intertextuality in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber,” cites Avis Lewallen’s comments on the tale, as she said it was one of the most disturbing tales in the collection of revised fairy tales “because of its lush, seductive descriptions of sexual exploration and victimization”(32). Kaiser continues to explain how Carter’s retelling of “Snow White” is basically “a fable of incest” (33).
Nanette Altevers wrote the article “Gender matters in The Sadeian Woman.” The article centers on “The Sadeian Woman,” a story that has been called moral pornography. In it Altevers shares similar thoughts of Carter’s works and says that Carter’s writings are part of the “feminist politics” (20).
Like Kaiser, Altervers also cites Carter’s writings. Altervers concentrates mainly on the issue of whether the writing constitutes pornography. She uses Robert Clark’s essay “Angela Carter’s Desire Machine” to make her arguments. “Clark acknowledges the ‘positive side of Carter’s representation of gender,’ her ‘representation of femininity as a male construct'” (18). Clark also says that, “her belief that pornography can be used ‘in the service of women’ goes to give proof that sexuality is the acme of pleasure and origin of authentic significance” (18).
It is important to note that Carter’s writing does bring out many of the traits that are synonymous with feminist writing. These are writings that have a definite agenda. Carter’s endgame was not merely to write an erotic tale or even to make her mark as a writer. One of the main purposes of the writings was to bring attention to the feminist movement. While the debates that raged in the 1970s and 1980s over whether it was or was not pornography not only brought attention to Carter, they also brought attention to the feminist movement.
Sexuality, conventional and otherwise
As previously mentioned, there was a lot of sexuality in the earliest forms of fairy tales, so it shouldn’t be too shocking when Carter reintroduces that aspect in her versions, right? The issue of sexuality in Carter’s work wasn’t because the prudish society couldn’t handle a little eroticism on the way to live happily ever after.
The fact of the matter is Carter didn’t simply get graphic in her description of the lovemaking between two characters, to show the romantic and emotional bonds they have forged. She could have gotten away with that without much debate. Instead, Carter introduces fetishes and unconventional sexual situations. These types of scenes are designed for the reader to feel uncomfortable. After all, who wouldn’t feel uncomfortable reading in vivid detail about a rape or an incestuous relationship?
These concepts were essential, however, for Carter to tell the stories the way she wanted to tell them. There is evidence of the Freudian influence throughout these tales. In Becky McLaughlin’s article, “Perverse Pleasure and Fetishized Text: The Deathly Erotics of Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber'” she wrote about her opinions of Carter’s infusion with Freud and even used Freud’s own words to convict the author of having perverse sexual ideas.
McLaughlin wrote in her article that the eroticism in the story suggests the perversion of the writer. “What I would like to suggest is that Carter’s story recreates the child’s fantasy of being beaten by the father” (410). Now that Carter has passed away, the answer may never be articulated? Did she have an obsession with fetishes, such as being beaten by her father?
“The Bloody Chamber” doesn’t actually contain any beatings, but McLaughlin explains that the tale has “metaphorical substitutes.” She cites Carter’s line, “to perch on his knee in a leather armchair beside the flickering log fire,” as an example of the father metaphorically punishing his daughter (410).
However, I tend to lean with McLaughlin, as she cites Freud in the analysis. “The beating is now a meeting-place between the sense of guilt and sexual love. It is not only the punishment for the forbidden genital relation, but also the regressive substitute for it, and from this latter source it derives the libidinal excitation which is from this time forward attached it. Here for the first time we have masochism (117-118; Freud’s italics)” (410).
In “The Bloody Chamber”, Carter has a woman married to a man who is much older than her; unaware he’s actually a vampire that has stayed alive for centuries by feasting on women.
McLaughlin akins the vampire in Carter’s tale in some ways to the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “Although the narrator of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ does not refer to the affect of anxiety by name, he references to the oppressive heaviness that imbues the marquis suggest the anxiety that accompanies the surplus of the body of the realÃ¢Â?Â¦Later in the story, when describing how her new husband’s embraces affect her, she says that he creates in her both arousal and a repugnanceÃ¢Â?Â¦” (412).
McLaughlin was far from being the only writer that made a commentary on Carter’s sexuality in The Bloody Chamber. Wendy Swyt explores the sexuality in Carter’s retellings of “Little Red Riding Hood,” that is entitled “The Company of Wolves,” in her article, “‘Wolfings’: Angela Carter’s Becoming-Narrative.” Swyt describes Little Red Riding Hood as “the modern heterosexual woman ‘out on the town’.” She actually cites Robert Clark who claimed that she was a woman “enjoying her sexuality and using it to tenderize the wolf.” Swyt explains that Clark’s interpretation of Carter’s tale is that it’s a “typical story of sadistic male dominance” (315).
There seems to be something erotic about a woman being with the wrong kind of man, especially when the woman is put in potential danger.
Mary Kaiser argues that Carter’s tales turn fairy tales into sexual allegories, all having a certain moral, even though those morals are far from the morals of the original fairy tales. Carter’s tales give emphasis to strong women. Kaiser points out that in both “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Snow Child,” the male in the story is threatening both the woman’s life and her virginity. “‘The Snow Child’ is a tale of feminine courage triumphant, while ‘The Snow Child,’ as its chilling title suggests, is a stark, uncompromising tale of sexuality as a function of overwhelming male power” (31).
It is quite possible that female empowerment was Carter’s main objective. However, some critics argue that the sexuality does more to demean women than show their strength.
Jeff VanderMeer examined this line of thinking in his essay “Angela Carter.” He wrote: “Not all critics thought Carter had done a good enough job of rewriting the tales to a feminist agenda, particularly Patricia Dunker in Literature and History magazine. She argues that ‘Carter envisages women’s sexuality simply as a response to male arousal. She has no conception of women’s sexuality as autonomous desire'” (21).
VanderMeer agrees that the tales could have been much more radical than they are, but argues that would have turned into feminist propaganda. “Hasn’t she instead created characters who are still bound by the real pressure of a male-dominated society, but have done this much: been made self-aware of their condition of imprisonment? Visionary as Carter could be, she was also a pragmatist. Her stories and novels always examine the ways men treat women; they never form a blueprint for utopia” (VanderMeer 22).
I believe that sexuality works in Carter’s favor as she is trying to express certain feminist traits. Take “The Company of Wolves” for example. She is infusing sex in this story, but it is nowhere near what might be considered pornography because it is handled in a productive way and it is necessary to advance the plot. Carter very rarely, if ever, expresses sexuality for the pure purpose of putting sex in a scene.
Julia Samarina examines this as it relates to “The Company of Wolves.” She writes in her essay, “Angela Carter on the Ideology of Pornography: Rereading Marquis de Sade” that “Ã¢Â?Â¦the brave girl refuses to be made victim, to be consumed. When confronted with the wolf, she is not frightenedÃ¢Â?Â¦ This refusal to give up her body as meat gives vent to her desire, puts her into a superior position and affirms her right for life” (6).
Carter has merged a number of traits and controversial methods in her stories, which are coincidentally retellings of popular fairy tales. These retellings use profanity, sexual content and violence to tell the story. They are very different from traditional fairy tales, but not so different from some of the other fairy tales of the world.
Carter’s stories are more than good fiction. They dared to break the mold in terms of the stereotypical role of women in fairy tales. There are no damsels in distress waiting for a handsome man to save them in Carter’s tales. Unlike the traditional tales that are predominately written by men, Carter allows the female characters to actually take care of themselves and save the day by themselves. This act of empowering women is a strong trait in feminist writing, and the stories have been well-received.
Carter’s stories aren’t really fairy tales at all. They are based upon fairy tale characters, but ultimately these stories are stories intended for adults with messages that children probably wouldn’t understand.
Carter argues that the traditional fairy tales can give girls the impression that they always have to wait for a man to come save the day. Being a feminist, Carter wanted to turn these stories around and show how women are able to escape peril all by themselves. In order to do that, she gave the women more independence and strength, while making some of the secondary male characters much weaker, or eliminating them completely, as was the case in “The Bloody Chamber.”
Carter uses sex not to create pornography but to add an additional threat to these women that they must overcome. Not only are the evil men threatening to kill them, in some cases they are threatening to rob them of their virginity, which they hold in high regard.
In The Bloody Chamber, Carter does talk of very unpleasant things, such as rape and incest, but that is merely a part of her goal to tell a strong feminist story.
In writing this paper, I have read a number of articles from both sides of the debate, both of which have very strong arguments. I think there is no defined answer in this and it comes down to a matter of personal opinion and personal taste. This is true because people have different limitations. For example, one person can read the stories in Carter’s book and see it as profane, vulgar and pornographic, while another reader may take no issue with it at all.
I think Carter’s writings are truly feminist writing and I believe that the violence and sexual content actually add to the feminist angle, as it shows the concerns and fears of women, while giving them even more obstacles to overcome.
In the writing of this paper, I have somewhat changed my opinion of Carter. When I read the stories in The Bloody Chamber, I considered them to be little more than garbage. They were full of unorthodox sex and vulgarities and I didn’t think they were, for the most part, needed to tell the story.
As I began to research and learn more about what Carter was actually trying to convey, I have since changed my mind. The things Carter discusses are by no means pleasant and I don’t believe they are intended to be. I still don’t like the content of these stories and you can be almost certain that I won’t be rushing to the local library or book store to snatch up the complete Angela Carter library.
Having said that, I have learned to respect the author for her viewpoints and I feel I now have a better understanding of what she was trying to accomplish. Even though I can’t classify myself as a fan of her book, I can now see the value of her writing to literature overall. She’s no Shakespeare obviously, but I have come to realize that her retellings of these popular fairy tales are an important notation when it comes to a study of British literature.
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