Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. Interpretation of Shock Factors
Angela Carter clearly adds a shock value to her short stories; this can be seen in the explicit sex scenes and the brutal deaths which are shocking. Whether or not the stories are ‘merely shocking’ is debatable as it infers that the stories are only to be read for shock purposes and not necessarily to earn from it. Carter, a feminist in the 70’s would try and promote her feminist ideals in her stories and through closer analysis it can be seen that ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is not only ‘merely shocking.’ The reader is able to understand the pain many of the heroine face through the objectification of their body. ‘The Bloody Chamber’ definitely shocks the readers by the sexual references that are sometimes violent and unexpected, however it may be seen the reason Carter shocks is to show the struggle women face in our patriarchal society or the freedom they could have if there was a dismantlement of this hierarchal structure.
The first shocking factor is the marriage between a pure and virginal teenager to a rich Marquis who enjoys pornographic pictures and books. In ‘The Bloody Chamber’ the pornography is explicitly described when the young girl looks through a book ‘I had not bargained for this… her cunt a split fig… fingered with his free hand his prick’. This description is shocking especially because the narrator is a woman. This is reiterated when the Marquis catches her reading The Immolation of the wives of the Sultan and he patronisingly says, “My little nun has found the prayer books, has she?” The young girl’s ‘painful, furious bewilderment’ is supposed to be the expected reaction of women when speaking of sexuality. The protagonist is meant to be cute and helpless with one of the most shocking characteristic in their relationship being the Marquis treated the young girl as a child. After having sex with her he is very patronising by saying ‘did it hurt her?’ this demeaning tone is often used alongside him calling her ‘baby’ and ‘little one.’ This is shocking as it suggests he likes to taint her innocence.
‘The Snow Child’ is both shocking and explicit in trying to reveal the way women are treated in today’s society. The young girl is seen as innocent however this shockingly does not stop the count from raping her dead body. Once the girl has pricked her finger and dies the Count ‘thrusts his virile member in’ to her. The virile and thrust has masculine connotations and is very explicit that it’s shocking to the audience. However it could be argued that the reason Angela Carter decided to make it shocking is not just for gratuitous violence but to point out how vulnerable women, even dead are still used. First wave feminism was around the time Carter was writing ‘The Bloody Chamber’ and so it can be seen that this necrophilia and taboo act is to highlight the treatment women go through. The count felt like the girls beauty was reason enough for him to have sex with her who could be paralleled into the real world where women are whistled at and verbally abused, it shows men as predators.
On the other hand it can be argued that ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is not shocking at all. The short stories are all based on fairy-tale and folklores and so nothing is too shocking . All of the stories are contextually linked to other stories that it has become familiar and the fact that Carter is a feminist who is trying to show the treatment of women she would obviously try and include ‘shocking’ aspects. The main reason that these stories aren’t shocking is because they are to educate everyone on the consequences of naivety and women allowing themselves to be subordinate to men.
In conclusion it can be seen that ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is shocking however the main reason for it being written is to educate rather than to just entertain with its shock value.
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