So I'm really struggling with The Bloody Chamber in terms of Elements of Gothic.
For example, I am currently in the process of writing an essay with the title 'drawing from two stories from The Bloody Chamber, write about the ways Angela Carter could be perceived to be reinterpreting Gothic Conventions"
Now, my understanding of Gothic conventions are things such as shapeshifting, the supernatural, transgression, psychological aspects, the weather etc etc..
What I'm struggling with is how to apply these conventions to the short stories or rather, how to identify them. To me, it's not obvious. I need to write this essay and start by indentifying similarities but I just can't see them. I mean, I can see its gothic-esque and you can't help but feel the Gothic influence when reading it but I can't pick out a passage and say "This shows the Gothic convention of transgression (for eg) because blah blah blah.."
Anyone else doing this? I would really appreciate your help!
Strangely enough, I've recently completed an essay on this exact same question and I understand where you're coming from! At first I also found this question to be difficult however, once I started writing it, I really enjoyed myself so I'll give you a few points that I included and hope that it helps!
Firstly I really like the story 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon' so I talked about the role reversal between genders. I thought that it was interesting how Carter plays upon the functions that specific genders traditionally uphold, for instance here she has ensured that the beast is interpreted as the 'damsel in distress’ and that Belle is the character who must rescue him from his death, which (clearly) is the exact opposite to their stereotypical roles. It’s clear that this role reversal adds to the other gothic elements she has implemented as it distorts the natural hierarchy of a traditional fairytale by playing upon connotation of the protagonist; rather than a passive, undistinguished female she is arguably more important than the male character. You could also say that this view that “young women are constantly depicted as vulnerable victims” originated during the Renaissance period therefore Carter’s decision to turn this upon it’s head is not only bold but brave as this opinion is held by many and has clearly developed over time. Thus Carter may be applauded for this utilisation of protagonists that go against gothic conventions as it contests this universal view by providing a more personal one. Yet one may wish to consider, upon evaluation, whether this choice actually detracts from the realism that was once apparent within the short story as it is less convincing, as well as enticing, that a female would have such power or importance as Belle does within this gothic tale.
Ok I’ve written a bit of a mission about the first point so I’ll shorten the rest:
You could talk about her courage when attempting to employ humour within ‘Puss in Boots’, a supposed gothic fairytale, and it’s successes. You could talk about the use of the male narrative in this story as well, it’s the only tale that uses a male narration, therefore it would be an interesting point to discuss, and possibly why she seems to avoid a male narration?
Whilst in ‘The Snow Child’, a personal favourite of mine, I relished talking about the impressive use of symbolism, for instance when the count talks about his perfect child “as black as..”, and the specific choice of the raven – a creature very much associated with the gothic. Or maybe you could consider the themes of materialism, supernatural and the fact that the count seems to objectify women constantly. Also you could say that the childlike repetition that Carter focuses upon really allows the reader to establish the form of the short tale, the fact that she has created new tales from old, traditional fairy tales.
Finally I also quite like ‘The Erl-King’ and you could talk about that tale as well rather easily. I quite like how Carter has taken a setting that is commonly associated with the gothic, as a forest is traditionally known as something mysterious and dangerous, however in this particular tale she paints quite a different picture. I get the impression, personally, that this forest is a device of implementing the theme of nature and therefore focusing much more upon the beauty of nature rather than the dangers of the unknown. And although some students in my class believe that this is a flaw within Carter’s work, as a missed opportunity to once again include the mystery and supernatural that so heavily feature within gothic conventions, I actually approve of this decision by Carter as it proves that she is not scared to move away from ‘playing by the rules’ from time to time. Plus I think that if every aspect of her tales were to be completely ‘gothic-esque’, as you say, then her work would become much more predictable and would have less of an impact than it does at this particular moment in time. You could also mention the erratic narration in this tale, the confusion created so cleverly by Carter, this really is an interesting feature that really does make her work ‘gothic’, as it creates a fear of the unknown.
I know there’s a lot more you could say but I’ve written too much already, so I’ll leave it there and just hope that this has helped you in some way good luck with the essay writing!! x
Hi, with regards to the view that the forest does not invoke menace i have a different opinion. The forest CAN be seen as menacing when considering the opening description of it. Carter notes how the "woods swallows you up" and there is "a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being". From this it can be deduced that the forest, a place usually inextrcably linked with life and growth, is unnatural as it infact brings end to life. The speaker finds herself trapped in "vertical bars of brass coloured distillations of light". It is as if once you're in the woods you can lose your sense of self thus forshadowing the menace that waits to trap her - the Erl-King. The colour symbolism reflects the danger the woods represents for example the "sulphar yellow" which reflects decay and death. Also considering the title The Erl-King - an Erlking is a creature of German folklore that haunts travellers in the forest and leads them to their death. Therefore considering all of this i believe the forest is a place of danger rather than as suggested "a flaw within Carter's work".
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