Gothic Literature discussion

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Female Gothic > The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

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Monique | 61 comments So let's work on this one first, from October 3 to the 16th.

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Loved this collection! Angela Carter was an amazing writer. One of my all-time favourites. I will go off and buy a copy of this now, so I can re read it, and add to the discussion.

Monique | 61 comments So I had to buy a copy of this because all of the library copies in my area have been stolen! Sadly that points to it being a really good book. I have never read anything from Angela Carter before so I was looking forward to discovering someone new. When I was reading the short author bio at the beginning of the book I was surprised to learn that she wrote the screenplay for A Company of Wolves. This happens to be one of my favourite movies. I am very intrigued by this an am looking forward to really getting in there to read this book.

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I first read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, at art school, in my women and surrealism group (I think it was that class), and although the story remained with me for years, I couldn't remember her name or the title! Years later I tried to track it down, my key words were gothic, iron maiden, chamber and swollen green stems in a vase. I was delighted when I finally found her again!

Yes, A Company of Wolves is based upon a short story in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. It's one of my favourite movies too. :)

Monique | 61 comments So I have finished the first story The Bloody Chamber in Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. I like the writing style very much. The language is descriptive so you can definitely get a good mental picture of the action and surroundings of the story.

This first story is a play on the old Bluebeard story. In this version, a nobleman takes a young girl for his wife. It seems that all this man's wives have gone to the great beyond before him. Uh oh, it looks like he's a sadist. He tells his young wife that he must leave the country on business leaving her in the possession of his keys, all of which she is free to use except one. Of course she uses it and you can figure out the rest of the story.

Despite knowing the Bluebeard story, it doesn't detract from this one at all. There are still enough differences and the portrayal of the scenes are such that I believe that Carter has breathed new life into, and made the story her own.

Monique | 61 comments Georgina wrote: "I first read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, at art school, in my women and surrealism group (I think it was that class), and although the story remained with me for years, I couldn't remember ..."

Now that I've read it I can completely understand how it stuck with you all of these years. And that description "swollen green stems" is just wonderful. You can almost smell the lilies and the husband's scent. Really good stuff.

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Isn't it! Yes, I've read Perrault's version of Bluebeard, and I agree, Carter breathed new life into the tale. :)

Kirsty | 784 comments Mod
The thing I love the most about Angela's stories are the empowered female characters, which contrasts the pathetic roles that are generally assigned in traditional fairy tales. A preferable message to the usual I'm a princess and need a man to come rescue me.

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Kirsty wrote: "The thing I love the most about Angela's stories are the empowered female characters, which contrasts the pathetic roles that are generally assigned in traditional fairy tales. A preferable message..."

Absolutely! :) Have to add, some of the earliest fairy tales did has strong female characters, especially as they were written by women, it's later versions, by people such as the Grimm brothers that skewed the tales.

Kirsty | 784 comments Mod
I need to read these fairy tales! I find mythology is largerly the same, if given strong attributes they are man hating ice queens or vain. I study English literature and it is just depressing reading the derogatory roles assign to female characters, especially the 18th century where 'men' like Alexander Pope are just plain scathing.
You may also like Carol Ann Duffy's 'The World's Wife' she re-writes, in poem form, the voices from silenced females from histrory, mythology and fairy tales. Salome, Medusa, and The Devil's Wife are my favourite poems. The World's Wife

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Added, thanks, Kirsty! I'm part of a great fairy tale and folk lore group, that discusses individual stories and their tellers. Hoping no one will mind me adding the link here:

Also a GREAT book on those fairy tale writers and fairy tales in general is: From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (Angela Carter included). I'm also VERY slowing reading: Wonder Tales: Six French Stories of Enchantment, which are some of the early tales from the 'scandalous' female French fairy tale writers. :)

Monique | 61 comments Thanks for the link to the fairy tale group Georgina. I am going to echo you guys on the observation that the female characters aren't just passive and waiting to be victims/saved by men. This is especially after I read Uncle Silas for another group a while back. The female characters were appalling. Especially Maud. What a nitwit. Though maybe being a post modern female prevents me from understanding how sheltered women were in that time period. They had no control over any aspect of their lives. I am still working through the book though. The size of the book is deceptive because the writing is so rich and complex I just want to sit and savor it, really taking my time. I'm going to have to kick it into gear here so I can be done by tomorrow and ready for the second read for this month!

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I haven't read Uncle Silas, yet. I think you are right though, Monique, many women, especially those of her class, had little or no control over their lives. From what I've read it was middle class women, daughters of merchants etc, that had the most freedom then. The poor were continuing to work themselves to death, in order to survive, and the upper class women were like pawn pieces in a game of chess.

Monique | 61 comments I think the idea of marrying for love comes out of the middle and merchant classes if I'm not mistaken. They had enough money to take with them but no political clout per se. This made an ideal climate to have some say over whom you were going to marry. Since large tracks of land (this is where the political clout comes in) weren't in play like with the upper classes and daily stability wasn't such an issue like with the lower classes, these women and men were able to get to know each other and form attachments that weren't available to those above and below them on the economic scale.

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Well said! One of my favourite books on the subject: The Weaker Vessel. Some of the early French fairy tales writers, entertained the idea of marrying for love (in their tales). We now see those tales as perhaps a bit trite, love will conquer all etc, but they were heartfelt cries over the fate of the noble women. They were married off to an old man--a man more often than not, jealous of younger men courting their wives, and apt to retreat to the closed boredom of their country estates. And, according to Marina Warner, the story of Rapunzel speaks of life in the mother-in-law's home. *shudders*

Monique | 61 comments Wow! Just finished this (I know, I know, a little late?) and it was wonderful. The descriptions in the stories are just perfect. Carter is able to do something with her writing that not many authors are able to, and that is to invoke a feeling with the story. I really can't explain it any better than that. I am very glad that we read this book and will be suggesting it to many friends.

Kirsty | 784 comments Mod
Yah!! Apparently she has written some poetry too, which I will have to find and add to our poetry thread.

Monique | 61 comments Definitely!

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