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"The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter - With close reference to one of the tales, discuss how Carter draws upon and subverts conventions of the fairy tale

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"The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter "With close reference to one of the tales, discuss how Carter draws upon and subverts conventions of the fairy tale" Usually fairy tales are told to children to teach them a moral lesson in life or as is mostly the case, help them tell the difference between good and bad. Angela Carter is someone known to take elements from fairy tales and turn them into well written, exciting, compelling complex dramas of a Gothic nature filled with sexual innuendo, a combination of different narrations (mainly first and third), strong heroic female characters and the evil villain - the male. "The Bloody Chamber" is a modern interpretation of the "Blue Beard" (character below) fairy tale which uses this very formula to create an exciting and dramatic story. In a nutshell both stories are about young women (in their late teens, on the verge of turning into womanhood) who marry a wealthy man and leave a life of modesty behind them. The young women are given a set of keys which allows them to explore every room in the house - except one (the 'bloody' chamber) , if that room is entered, dire consequences shall follow (death). Naturally the young women ignore the advice of their intimidating, menacing and much older husbands to enter the room and fall into the trap set up for them and like every disobedient child, they MUST be punished. ...read more.


The overwhelming curiosity is too much for her and like a child in a sweet shop she has to find out, Carter also uses imagery to intensify our emotions and plays on the words blood as in the Bluebeard tale where the female also finds herself in the same predicament when she also enters the 'bloody' chamber and finds the bodies of the ex wives her husband, "....all covered over with clotted blood...." The next part to Carter's story is that the sexual themes are now set. Carter sprinkles her gothic tale with subtle yet effective imagery to intensify our emotions to leave us with a sense of curiosity. Carter remains true to her formula of domination and submission and most of the imagery she uses is related to the situations that arise in the book. Red or blood is often used to symbolise the illusion of death or as is the case of Carter the young girl's virginity ,which she loses and therefore her innocence which she regrets thinking to her self , "I had bled... I had been infinitely dishevelled by the loss of my virginity".Yet The blood imagery has a significant role to play in this particular chapter as the Marquis refers to the hanging of the blood stained sheets (after claiming a wife's virginity) ...read more.


In Carter's story the saviour of the young girl is in fact her mother who comes exactly on time to save her daughter from getting beheaded. The mother right from the beginning is revealed to be a woman of immense courage who has "shot a man-eating tiger with her own hand before she was older than I" the narrator tells us. This is a sharp contrast from the "Bluebeard" tale where "...immediately enter'd two horsemen, who drawing their swords ran directly to the blue beard. He knew them to be his wife's brothers...they ran their swords through him and left him dead" People can look at fairy tales in different ways. They can have their own opinions on symbolism and metaphors. But a person who takes them literally does not really understand the meaning of a fairy tale at all. Questions like 'why did he give her the key?' arise which defeat the purpose of what the story was intended for. This story (the Bloody Chamber) is intended for a more mature audience and not children but if a child was to read it, he or she would get the message rather differently even if he/she didn't quite understand the metaphorical language or the use of symbolism and this is 'not to betray your husband because the consequences shall be dire' - the theme that is common in both tales. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The writer does extremely well in first considering what the conventions of traditional fairy tales are, and then comparing these to 'The Bloody Chamber'. Each paragraph analysing Carter's tales always links back to the focus point of the Bluebeard story. ...

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Response to the question

The writer does extremely well in first considering what the conventions of traditional fairy tales are, and then comparing these to 'The Bloody Chamber'. Each paragraph analysing Carter's tales always links back to the focus point of the Bluebeard story. These explicit references show an examiner that the writer is continually aware of what the question is asking. Paragraphs are structured well with topic sentences, which clearly signpost to a reader what each section is about.

Level of analysis

There is a good consideration of themes, imagery and other stylistic devices, which are generally supported by quotes. This could be extended by analysis of individual words. For instance, the writer uses the quote “perhaps, here, in his subterranean privacy, I might find a little of his soul..." to suggest the heroine's insatiable curiosity and thus inherently different from traditional fairy tales. However, this quote could be interpreted in different ways: the words “subterranean privacy” hint at the liminality of the Marquis' personality, as the heroine has to physically delve into new territories (“subterranean” literally meaning 'under the ground') to find out what lies beneath his superficial exterior. From this alternative analysis, evaluation is more natural: which of these interpretations are most likely? Do these words reflect more on the character of the Marquis or the heroine? Different viewpoints are considered more generally, such as religious and feminist perspectives. This is good as it signals a consideration of ambiguities and more than one view. This is shown excellently in the conclusion, where the writer explicitly compares how different readers would interpret the tales, and how this links to the initial question of the essay. The last line of the essay is particularly strong, as it directly compares fairy tales and Carter, linking back to the essay question. This gives the essay a sense of completion and generally satisfies the reader that the writer has come to an overall conclusion without merely making a summary of points made.

Quality of writing

Spelling and grammar are both excellent. However, expectations for academic essays involve a degree of formality; sometimes the writer uses colloquialisms and idioms which make the essay seem more informal and less credible as a formal consideration of the question. Phrases such as “in a nutshell” and the use of “pretty” as a synonym for “quite” could be replaced by “essentially”, or an evaluative “to a large extent”, respectively.

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Reviewed by _becca 29/06/2012

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