Angela Carter’s use of fairy tales of the past allows a certain sense of shock, as her graphic portrayal of lust and animal carnage somewhat confuses the reader as to the original stories. Her main technique is the relation of animals and animal like behaviour to society, reflecting the harsh reality of modern life in her revamped tales of ‘magic’, love, lust and murder. The use of animals is mainly associated with the male characters of the stories, referred to with the idea of the “carnivore incarnate”, using wolves, tigers, and lions to portray masculine figures of authority and creators of fear in women.Order now
Yet Carter always shows the women as the heroes, the survivors, those who triumph over the evils or weakness of men. In the Bloody Chamber, the Marquis was brought down by the young bride’s mother, whereas in the past tale of Bluebeard, her two brothers came to the rescue, in all their glory etc. In the stories based upon the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ the women show two different sides, one transforming the beast, and one transforming herself. This shows the empowerment of women, a social comment on the strength of women in the present compared to of that time.
In ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyons’, the leading woman is closer to the original, loving father, gentle beast, innocence, however towards the end her womanhood appears and her sexual awakening opens her eyes to the world. She begins to see herself as more of a woman, her sexual liberation allows her to begin her own transformation, yet she takes a step back, as her growth steals away her innocence and she becomes more like a beast in herself, “Her face was acquiring, instead of beauty, a lacquer or the invincible prettiness that characterizes certain pampered, exquisite, expensive cats. When looking at this you understand the relationship of this comment to the books that fill the beast’s library, “French fairy tales about white cats who were transformed princesses” For both her and her beast’s transformations back to humanity to begin, they have to prove to each other their unselfishness and accept who they are. In ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ the female role shows that it is not the transformation of the beast to man, but acceptance of becoming a beast herself that is the inner struggle.
This story, still based around the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ storyline, suggests that this is a girls struggle to face womanhood. As an adolescent she is taken to the castle of the beast, where his bargain to her is to reveal herself to him in return for her freedom. With this she is outraged, showing her complete refusal, however when she realises that the best himself is willing to show himself for her, she is compelled to remove her clothes and liberate her sexual oppression.
At this point she has become a woman and accepts her inner change, I felt I was at liberty for the first time in my life. ” When she returns to the palace she feels that she cannot return to the world she came from signifying her childhood, as it is there that she belongs. Relating to the comment in ‘The Company of Wolves’, “she knew that the worst wolves are hairiest on the inside”, she returns to her beast and she peels away her childhood in an almost sexual act of removing her skin to reveal her “beautiful fur. ” The significance of flowers in the stories also signifies many things.
The use of roses and lilies in most of the stories symbolise innocence and the growth of a person, as, like a flower a girl grows from a seed, to a bud, blossoming into a beautiful flower. A fantastic example of this is in ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ when her small white rose blossomed, and the final lines of the story show how her flower has spread its seeds, “in a drift of fallen petals”. In Art Nouveaux, the lilies shown in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ represent the loss of virginity as the Calyx; the reproductive part of the flower is exposed.
In ‘Lady in the House of Love’, a blend of ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘The Lady of Shallot’, the symbolism of flowers is that of life, as the rose that she had “plucked from between my thighs”, he tried to keep alive and as it blossomed its scent filled the rooms and reminded him of her. The use of the word “resurrect” in the rehabilitation of the rose, suggests that he knows she will live on through her flower.
The term flower, in some modern senses also stands for virginity, as she had given him her flower after the night that they had spent together, also, at her sexual awakening, Beauty in sends white roses to the beast in return for the one he had given her. The morals of the original stories live on in these classic tales, however with a wonderful twists, the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ shown through ‘The Company of Wolves’ still sends the moral ‘don’t stray from the path! however in the original story, the path simply means the moral path, however the path in Carter’s version is the sexual path. The roles of men are frequently referred to with masks, hiding their true selves, such as in ‘Tiger’s Bride’ and ‘The Bloody Chamber’, where the marquis finally shows his true self to his new bride at the point of orgasm, “I had heard him shriek and blaspheme at the orgasm. And perhaps I has seen his face without the mask;”
Carter may have been making a comment on men’s nature, and their ability to hide their feeling until breaking point. The sympathy of the Beauty in ‘Tiger’s Bride’ is created when the beast takes off his mask and reveals his true self to her. This discusses the theory that to touch a woman’s heart, you must reveal yours. Very few of these stay close to the original, however they still stay familiar to the story, so that each one is recognisable. ‘Puss-in-Boots’ stays close to its original, as does ‘The Company of Wolves’.
The stories in the collection, revamped to a more modern period reflect the empowerment of female strong characters, without taking a feminist stance, for instance with the roles of the ‘tiger’ in ‘The Tiger’s Bride’ and the young, virtuous cyclist in ‘Lady of the House of Love’. Her work rejuvenates the tired of stories of the past, making them more adult with explicit scenes of passion and lust. Themes of womanhood and growth allow the childhood tales to not change, but develop further into themselves. Carter does not simply change the fairy tales of the past, but in themselves she allows them to grow, transform, as their characters do.