Metamorphosis of the Feminine – The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Georges Méliès, Bluebeard, 1901.

Georges Méliès, Bluebeard, 1901.

The following essay performs a close textual reading of two extracts from Angela Carter’s, The Bloody Chamber. Given the constraints of the assignment [1,000 words] this is a rather crude analysis which, unable to unpack its implications, leads in some respects to the generic and the obvious. In spite of these concerns I have nevertheless aimed for perceptual depth. Since the two passages are analogous I have privileged the former while drawing upon the latter. Rather than litter the post with copious footnotes you can read the Angela Carter Extracts here.I have given the page numbers for reference.

“His wedding gift, clasped round my throat. A choker of rubies, two inches wide, like an extraordinarily precious slit throat.” [p.6]

Carter’s employment of language here is extremely precise. The idea of clasping, of holding fast suggests power and possession (to have and to hold until death do us part?), as if the Marquis’ hands are literally round her throat. If we read this metaphor as asphyxiation, of becoming unable to breathe, and the ‘choker’ as a restriction of the body, particularly the neck (an erogenous zone) and vocal cords this would also increase the awareness of one’s own body as an object. His apparent gift is not just a symbol of wealth but a contractual exchange to which the female protagonist is committed by receiving and wearing it. At this point the choker metaphorically pre-figures the female protagonists fate in the final act and what appears to be her inevitable decapitation.

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Metamorphosis of the Feminine – The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter and Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith, Rapture, 2001, Bronze, 67 1/4 x 62 x 26 1/2 inches Edition of 3

Kiki Smith, Rapture, 2001, Bronze, 67 1/4 x 62 x 26 1/2 inches
Edition of 3

“It’s a resurrection/birth story; ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is a kind of resurrection/birth myth.”

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter is a collection of short stories in which Carter re-appropriates the fairy tale in the service of the feminine to re-work patriarchal constructions of gender from within the genre. Female protagonists constantly transgress the boundaries of the patriarchal and the received definition of the fairy tale moral in relation to the feminine (i.e the innocent female child and the sacrificial female). The primary story after which the collection is named is a re-working of Bluebeard by Charles Perrault and was influenced by Carter’s readings of the Marquis De Sade. Carter asserts that Sade “put pornography in the service of women, or, perhaps, allowed it to be invaded by an ideology not inimical to women …” [1]. This extremely brief presentation aims to highlights connections between the representation of female experience in Visual Art and The Bloody Chamber. Continue reading