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CONSIDER THE WAYS IN WHICH CARTER BLENDS ANIMAL AND HUMAN CHARACTERISTICS IN THE BLOODY CHAMBER. HOW DOES THIS CONTRIBUTE TO THE DESTINATION OF THE STORIES/COLLECTION?

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Introduction

CONSIDER THE WAYS IN WHICH CARTER BLENDS ANIMAL AND HUMAN CHARACTERISTICS IN 'THE BLOODY CHAMBER'. HOW DOES THIS CONTRIBUTE TO THE DESTINATION OF THE STORIES/COLLECTION? In 'The Bloody Chamber', Angela Carter uses the blurring of boundaries between animal and human qualities, usually through characters which are 'liminal beings', to overtly direct readers towards a destination concerning identity. In many of the individual stories, the concept of liminality is used to show how tortured and unsure creatures (be they animals or women) come to embrace their identity. In addition to these journeys of self-discovery in individual stories, the balance and degrees of liminality shift as the whole collection progresses, again leading to an overarching destination concerning identity, as the collection goes from a simple and negative liminality to more affirming and complex liminality. The 'simple and negative' liminality occurs in the very first story of the collection: 'The Bloody Chamber'. Here, the Marquis de Sade is portrayed as a sadistic animal (as his name suggests) parading as a connoisseur, a man of sophistication. Indeed, the female narrator identifies his bestiality before she discovers his violent sadism, with constant references to his lion-like physique ("dark leonine shape of his head", "as if all his shoes had soles of velvet", "There were pure streaks of silver in his dark mane"). ...read more.

Middle

However, 'The Tiger's Bride', which could be considered the second part of 'The Courtship of Mr Lyon', certainly banishes any sense of convention which may have existed within its predecessor. Here, the girl, after enduring objectification from her father for her whole life, accepts her own animal nature, transforming into a tiger, and the beast Milord accepts his own animalism by relinquishing his pretensions at humanness. In accepting their respective roles as beasts, they free themselves from the constraints of society, from labels and skin-deep judgement. So, where 'Courtship' appears to show that appearances are the most important aspect of happiness, 'Bride' suggests that acknowledgement of true identity is more important. At this juncture in the collection, then, Carter is suggesting (through the incorporation of liminality), that women are liminal beings, tormented by their lack of separate identity and objectification, and that true contentedness can only be achieved through the acknowledgement one's true identity. This juncture shows progression from the static liminality of 'The Bloody Chamber', and in doing so Carter develops her overall destination, as the collection moves from an unchanged animalistic man, to a woman helping a man to find his true identity, to a woman finally breaking free of the constraints of patriarchal society. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is in 'Wolf-Alice' where Carter finally flings all convention away and reveals the ultimate destination in terms of identity. "Nothing about (Wolf-Alice) is human except that she is not a wolf"; her status as a feral child means she is in a physical state of liminality as well as a psychological state of liminality, a complete outsider, as is the Duke ("poor wounded thing... locked half and half between such strange states, an aborted transformation, an incomplete mystery..."). Wolf-Alice is different from the stories that precede it in that there is no transformation, no physical manifestation of discovery; they are able to find happiness in their liminal states. This is the final point that Carter makes in the collection, and it is this point which allows for the realisation of the ultimate destination. She has shown how the cultural stereotypes which pervade fairy tales have created gender barriers and societal constraints (most notably in 'Courtship and 'The Werewolf') and sets about destroying them as the collection progresses ('The Tiger's Bride', 'Wolf-Alice'). In 'The Bloody Chamber', then, Carter employs liminality to show that the boundaries which society imposes on women and humans in general are senseless, allowing a transition to occur as the collection progresses in order to highlight this destination amongst others. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay is particularly strong. Not only does this essay respond to the question by looking at the blending of animal and human characteristics, but there is a distinct appreciation and exploration of why Carter does this. I would've liked ...

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Response to the question

This essay is particularly strong. Not only does this essay respond to the question by looking at the blending of animal and human characteristics, but there is a distinct appreciation and exploration of why Carter does this. I would've liked to have seen some more discussion around the gothic: there are great references to liminality and blurring of boundaries, but confirming Carter's text in the gothic genre would've made this essay even stronger. I particularly liked how liminality was defined from the introduction, as this allows the argument to stay focused throughout.

Level of analysis

This essay manages to analyse the high level concepts of magical realism and animalistic descriptions and emotions. The choice of language is analysed well here, and there is always discussion around the purpose of Carter's techniques. Phrases such as "This shows Carter challenging societal norms even further" allows the examiner to see you aren't simply commenting on techniques for the sake of it, but instead you're using them to build a cogent argument. What I really liked about this essay was the range of textual evidence. They don't just focus on one short story, but look at the short stories as a collection, trying to decipher a more broad meaning from Carter's texts. Such discussion is highly rewarded by examiners.

Quality of writing

I would've liked to have seen quotes embedded thoroughly into the essay rather than placed in parenthesis. Although it does not detract from the content of the essay, placing quotes at the end makes it seem they are after-thoughts, whereas the quotes should be at the centre of any discussion. It was a shame to see a couple of colloquial phrases such as "flings all convention away" as these do manage to detract from what is strong analysis. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are strong. I really liked the critical voice here, and the style of the essay is one which shows fluency and the ability to write a convincing essay.


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Reviewed by groat 26/06/2012

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