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According to what principles, and for what purposes, do Twentieth Century women-writers revise and rewrite fairy tales? You should illustrate your answer from at least three stories.

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Introduction

According to what principles, and for what purposes, do Twentieth Century women-writers revise and rewrite fairy tales? You should illustrate your answer from at least three stories. Fairy tales of the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century were created as traditional narratives advocating gender roles and employed as a means of preserving the established patriarchal order. Traditionally, termed as 'old wives' tales' the stories became female, oral narratives. However, the male rewrites of Perrault and the brothers Grimm led to a prevalent masculine orientated message. Such campaigning for the male agenda begged a feminist response in the Twentieth Century. Through her collection of fairy tales, The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter, Recovered a female tradition of story telling obscured by the popularity of such male adaptations as Charles Perrault, the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.'1 Carter embraces the subversive potential of the fairy tale and undermines the fixing of gender roles and natural laws through focusing upon the intermediate grey areas between the masculine and the feminine, childhood and adulthood, animal and human. The impact of the feminist perspective has served to revolutionise a genre that only appears to be impartial and uncomplicated through its categorising as a mode of story telling aimed at children. The feminist perspective has remodelled our reading of the traditional stories of Perrault to form a recognition of their purpose to marginalise 'otherness.' Carter is working to demystify the fairy tale through her reversal of the gender roles and introduction of a new commentary upon the nature of otherness and beastliness; metamorphosis becomes a motif of equality. Her use of humour and satire critiques modern civilisations and its attitudes to such stereotyping. Warner notes that Carter's use of humour signifies her 'defiant hold on 'heroic optimism''2 the mood she singled out as characteristic of the fairy tale. Carter argued that, While the novel is always tied to the figure of the author, whose name legitimises its status as a unique, original work of art, fairy tale is a more democratic ...read more.

Middle

The onset of menstruation in Alice serves to bring her into the human realm through her awareness of time, 'she discovered the very action of time by means of this returning cycle.' (p.123) Adolescence makes Alice no more or less of a sexual being than her animalistic associations have already allowed. Gamble notes that the virginity of the Beauty and Red Riding Hood figures, Constitute both her particular vulnerability and her peculiar defiance. It is what marks her out as the lycanthrope's prey, as the shedding of her hymeneal blood is what he specifically desires.10 She argues that the girl's actual pursuit of the sexual threat is necessary in order for her to develop from her virginal state. Her declaration that she is 'nobody's meat' (p.118) demonstrating this 'neither submissive nor aggressive'11 pursuit of maturation. The presentations of virginity and femininity represent a change whereby the women are no longer 'gobbled up' or passively taken by male sexuality, but meet on equal sexual terms. Carter's representation refuses the Wholesome or pretty picture of female gender (nurturing, caring) and deal [s] plainly with erotic dominance as a source of pleasure for men and for women.12 Warner argues that it is Beauty's attraction to the beast before his metamorphosis that represents the most disturbing image of the story, the attraction of the feminine to the monstrosity of the other. The first connection between Beauty and Mr Lyon requires a transformation of her beliefs on the nature of the other, 'with a flood of compassion, understood: all he is doing is kissing my hands.'(p.47) Yet Carter does not present this alteration naively, 'she saw, with an indescribable shock, he went on all fours.'(p.47) Beauty's metamorphosis is more gradual than the transformation of the Beast. Through her vanity, Beauty also possesses an element of monstrosity. Carter's fashioning of the tales raises the question about the nature of beastliness and the true location of monstrosity. ...read more.

Conclusion

Carter is working to undermine the male interpretations of traditional texts to represent the transformation of modern civilisation and the effect this has had on the suitability of the messages of the conventional tales for the younger audience. L. Sage notes that, In retelling these tales she was deliberately drawing them out of their set shapes, out of the separate space of 'children's stories' or 'folk art' and into the world of change. 23 1 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997) p.131 2 D. Warner, 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers, (London: Chatto and Windus, 1994) p.197 3 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line p.130 4 B. Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment (London: Penguin, 1976) p.182 5 ibid. p.169 6 ibid. p.173 7 A. Carter, The Bloody Chamber (London: Vintage, 1979) p.113 8 A. Cranny-Francis, Feminist Fiction: Feminist Uses of Generic Fiction (Cambridge: CUP, 1981) p.91 9 D. Warner 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers p.415 10 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line p.135 11 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line quoting M. Atwood, p.135 12 D. Warner, 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers p.310 13 ibid. p.409 14 ibid. p.308 15 ibid. p.194 16 D. Brewer, Symbolic Stories Traditional Narratives of the Family Drama in English Literature (London: Longman, 1980) p.15 17 D. Warner, 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers p.194 18 ibid. p.193 19 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line p.134 20 D. Warner, 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers p.299 21 A. Cranny-Francis, Feminist Fiction: Feminist Uses of Generic Fiction p.103 22 S. Gamble, Angela Carter: Writing from the front line p.155 23 D. Warner, 'From the Beast to the Blonde' On Fairy Tales and their Tellers p. ...read more.

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