The Bloody Chamber - A sexual JourneyPresentation Transcript
The Bloody Chamber and Sex
Ok – the story, for us, so far Meanings behind the title Not Fairy Tales, but rewriting stories Context (you should know loads on this)
Learning Intentions To evaluate and analyse Carter‟s use of sex in the story.
She wasn‟t interested in everyday reality but the way assumptions about men and woman had been unconsciously assimilated or “hard-wired” into northern European culture. Fairy tales are accepted as timeless representations of truths in society and Carter wanted to challenge perceptions about truths, in particular, by looking at the role of female and male sexuality in and outside marriage. (Her collection of tales is sometimes referred to as “neo-Gothic”.) They are encoded with the power structures inherent in a patriarchal society (rich/poor; male/female; father/daughter aggression/ passive victim) Carter was a female writer working in the 1970‟s and was consciously aware of the role her fiction could play in the changing values of the time. (In a letter to a friend, Carter stated that “ I really do believe that a fiction absolutely self-conscious of itself ... can
So, why look at this collectionof tales as a Gothic text? Traditional fairy tales often include elements which were later used in Gothic novels and Carter uses these to great effect to create fear and tension in the tales. The style and form of the tales and their deliberate departure from realism make them a good fit with Gothic themes. The sexual violence implicit in fairy tales, and the unquestioned fate meted out to females in traditional stories, is the central theme in „The Bloody Chamber‟ . The role of sexuality and psychological extremes are key elements of the Gothic.
Homework:Research the textual links and references that Carter makes in the story. For example, Marquis de Sade. Pentangle Matthew 27:24 How do these references Carmilla Etc. enhance our understanding of the story?
‘The Bloody Chamber’ More of a novella than a tale – a signature tale in this unevenly structured collection . Based on „Le Barbe Bleue‟ in Perrault‟s collection – a tale whose moral reiterated the common theme of the perils inherent in female transgression. The setting is redolent of castles in classic Gothic novels - ancestral castle isolated at points of high tide, filled with details suggesting opulence or the strangeness of the exotic (“that sea-girt, pinnacled domain that lay, still, beyond the grasp of my imagination”; “a mysterious, amphibious place”; “rugs from Isfahan and Bokhara”) Likewise the Count is a classic Gothic figure – his riches and power making him seem legitimate despite his perverted desires and the fate of his earlier wives . There are references to his inhuman behaviour(“face like a mask”, “that strange, ominous calm of a sentient vegetable”) , his bestial traits and subtle links to the wolf in fairy tales (“his dark, silver mane”; “smacked his lips”; “All the better to see you with”) and similar to other Gothic villains, we are forced to feel pity for his self-inflicted torture and the darkness of his soul: “he
Now, go through the text and pick outkey moments that relate to the storyof the protagonist‟s sexual journey.
The heroine – her journey into unknown as a metaphorical journey of sexual self- discoveryGothic archetype of innocent virgin pitted against the unknown - in this case “the unguessable country of marriage”. The story is centred round the awakening of her sexual self and the darkness associated with perverse sexual desire. Leaves “the white, enclosed quietude of my mother‟s apartment” and finds that the greatly anticipated loss of her virginity in the context of her marriage is an act of torture that has been re-enacted many times and that her identity is left in tatters (“A dozen husbands impaled a dozen brides”; “I had been infinitely dishevelled by
The heroine – her journey into unknown as a metaphorical journey of sexual self- discoveryKey passage – discovery of the bloody chamber (Marquis “the key to the kingdom of the unimaginable”, narrator “it shuddered like the door of Hell”). Carter‟s use of tension in the tale carefully builds up to the expected climax in this scene. Use of abrupt narrative break to suggest the narrator‟s shock and horror, the heavily punctuated, staccato like sentences and intense descriptive details (“the walls ... gleamed as if they were sweating with fright), the repeated references to the darkness and shadows in the chamber, the way Carter closely tracks the
What does the bloody chamber represent? Carter employs the recurring motif of the hidden chamber in Gothic literature and fairy tales as a narrative device but also as a metaphor for the darkness and violence latent in sexual desire. The bloody chamber represents the perils of being the passive victim in sexual relationships. The unnamed narrator is awakened to her status as an object of male desire and the dangers of submitting to this (just like the picture of the girl she discovers in the pornography her husband collects: “the girl with tears hanging on her cheeks like stuck pearls, her c**t a split fig below the great globes of her buttocks”)
Is there a moral to Carter‟s tale? The moral seems to be that although the narrator survives,she pays the price for allowing herself to be tricked into thesexual slavery of a glamorous but calculating marriage (thebrand of the key on her forehead is a reminder of her shame).Carter uses the original tale and its Gothic content tocomment on female sexuality and the hidden horrors of somerelationships. However, the tale is not simply meant to be anadmonishment against the discovery of sexual arousal but awarning that its power to seduce and corrupt should beunderstood by women as well as men. After her husband hasleft her , the narrator thinks of “the thousand, thousandbaroque intersections of flesh upon flesh” and she lies with “asleepless companion, my dark newborn curiosity”. Thefemale‟s curiosity, overlooked by traditional tales and theirGothic counterparts, is a source of pleasure and wonder inCarter‟s tales and it is reflected here in the narrator‟s