Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' comprises a collection of short stories, all of which, in some sense or another, exemplify a variation or reworking of popularized fairy tales. Her writing style, rather than taking the form of any one genre, crosses the boundaries of all of them; exhibiting elements of magic realism, fantasy, gothic literature, feminism, postmodernism, and dream-like surrealism. Thus, Carter's work plays with the possibilities and limitations of narration in general. Her stories thus do not differ so much in plot-line as they do in style and form. Despite her commitment to feminism, Carter's work does not directly strive to better the female experience, but rather to call attention to the messages behind fairy tales and the various realities which they construct. Hence, Carter's work can most accurately be considered a deconstruction; a writing style that seeks to break down the boundaries of the fairy tale and its inherent messages.
By rewriting popular fairy tales, stories which are read to children and whose morals govern how we learn to live our lives, Carter is effectively able to expose the damaging lessons they preach. Thus, Carter's adaptations to well known stories can be seen as an attempt to move away from traditional modes of thought of the past. Her stories draw on stories of the past and unite them with her own contemporary agenda, thus contrasting past and present-day values and permitting the reader to weave back and forth between the two. In highlighting the damaging messages embedded in most fairy tales, Carter's stories "de-sanitize" the children's tales, incorporating violence, sexual fetishes, and the grotesque as a means of exposing the power relations between males and females. Furthermore, Carter provides an account of the female perspective so as to provide them a voice in a genre in which they are typically marginalized. Carter's stories shift tenses and perspective, alternating between past and present and subject and object. Moreover, Carter's stories examine the psychological conflicts within her characters in such a way that elucidates the very nature of identity as a process.
Ultimately, Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' comprises a collection of fairy stories about the nature of fairy stories themselves, and how each of these stories can be considered a compilation of multiple stories. In demonstrating this, Carter's stories toy with the idea of destiny by pulling the reader along to create the illusion of continuity, while simultaneously allows for interruptions, shifts in pronouns, narrative style, and point of view. Carter's writing effectively weaves the reader in and out of her stories, thus granting the reader the ability to, on the one hand, become a part of the story from the inside, and on the other, to see the tale from the outside, objectively. Though I would like to be able to discuss each one of Carter's stories (for they are all invariably rich and complex in content), I will, for the purpose of this paper, primarily focus on the opening story, 'The Bloody Chamber', in order to adequately assess the stylistic, thematic, symbolic, and social complexities in a single story.
[...] Therefore, Carter's "The Bloody Chamber", in being written by a woman, provides a direct authorial female perspective to a genre typically bound by male authorship, as well as a more personal account of the female character's point of view. In doing so, Carter empowers the heroine by permitting her the role of storyteller, thus allowing her to provide her own personal account of her own story, without the filtration of some outside perspective namely, a male perspective. Furthermore, in presenting the female perspective, Carter, in some sense, frees the female character from her imprisonment in the original Bluebeard legend by granting the typically objectified and silent heroine an opportunity to present her own story. [...]
[...] This is further reinforced the night of their first sexual encounter, that occurs in a room full of mirrors, reflecting back a multitude of girls in the abstract. She watches her husband undress her and describes the events filtered through his perspective. The Marquis, however, remains clothed, thus emphasizing female objectification and male concealment. She describes this as, "the most pornographic of all confrontations" (Carter, 15) commentating on the nature of the female as object to male desire. Throughout the scene, the narrator continues to refer to herself as "the girl" or "the child", further reinforcing how her perception of herself is contingent upon his perception of her. [...]
[...] Prior to entering the bloody chamber, the heroine is unaware of her husband's criminal status; what she is aware of, however, is a growing sense of unease that increases with each passing minute. However, rather than responding to this feeling of unease, she tries to cast it aside and repress it. In a sense, Carter is commenting on the female tendency to doubt herself and look towards a man for consolation. Although Carter's heroine does not truly love the Marquis, she nevertheless ignores her intuition and permits her fate to unfold. [...]
[...] Though I would like to be able to discuss each one of Carter's stories (for they are all invariably rich and complex in content), I will, for the purpose of this paper, primarily focus on the opening story, "The Bloody Chamber", in order to adequately assess the stylistic, thematic, symbolic, and social complexities in a single story. Carter's story "The Bloody Chamber" is based on the well known legend of "Bluebeard"; the tale of a young women who marries a mysterious, wealthy, older gentleman, and accompanies him to his seaside castle. [...]
[...] If Carter's heroine is read in this way, then "The Bloody Chamber" is not only a tale of self- discovery, but a commentary on the nature of temptation as necessary, as opposed to sinful, for personal and worldly growth. Like Eve, who cannot resist the temptation to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge, Carter's heroine cannot resist the temptation to enter the "forbidden" chamber. She does not enter the chamber merely out of defiance for her husband's instructions, but in hopes of unveiling his soul, which remains hidden behind a "waxen mask". [...]
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