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`In `The Bloody Chamber', childhood fairy tales become the stuff of adult
nightmares.' With close reference to the story, say how far you agree with this
The phrase `fairy tale', coined in the late 17th century by Madame d'Aulnoy, is a term used to identify a
type of short story typically featuring mythical creatures, supernatural occurrences, and, perhaps most
importantly, an underscoring moral message aimed towards the society from which it originates. The
content of such tales generally remains fairly innocent and appropriate for child readers, but within
Carter's `The Bloody Chamber', the typical conventions of a fairy tale become inverted and corrupt.
Cater, in her own words, `extracts the latent content from the traditional stories' and thus introduces
some harsher, unpalatable realities to her work.
One of the most obvious deviations from the typical fairy tale conventions lies in Carter's portrayal of her
characters, namely the Marquis. Male figures in fairy tales are often shown to be masculine,
authoritative, chivalrous and are generally viewed of as the `hero' who saves the vulnerable female
protagonist. Carter's own depiction of the dominant male within `The Bloody Chamber' can be seen to
follow these stereotypes to some extent, as the Marquis is `rich as Croesus', a `big man' with a
`resonant voice' who showers the female protagonist with gifts and occasional `soft consolations'.
However, as the story progresses, the true nature of the Marquis starts to become apparent. The
Marquis is likened to funeral lilies which, as Merja Makinen states, portrays him as `unnaturally white
and waxy...conveying the mask of his social demeanour...with eyes that convey `absolute absence of
light''. Not only can the link to lilies allude to the Marquis's impenetrable and almost unnaturally solid
composure through their `waxy' exterior, but the flower themselves hold connotations of funerals and
death, which from the very outset of the story acts as a subtle foreboding hint towards what is to come.
The `absolute absence of light' within his eyes implies the absence of virtue or conscience, as `light' is
frequently equated with the moral, the good. In addition, and perhaps more shockingly, the `absence of
light' may allude to the `atrocious loneliness of the monster' which may evoke some sympathy from the
reader and blur the divide between good and evil. The moral compass of the Marquis is depicted as
questionable although he kills his wives, there is indication that he feels some remorse for his actions
and acknowledges the perverse nature of his behaviour. When asked by the female protagonist if the
`secret room' key is the key to his heart, he responds: `Ah, no...not the key to my heart. Rather, the key
to my enfer' (enfer meaning Hell). The act of referencing his torture chamber as his `enfer' suggests inner
conflict within the Marquis, as if he himself is somewhat tortured by the morbid nature of what the room
contains and his desire to continue with his killings. This implied element of remorse thus serves as an
indication to the remaining humanity within the Marquis, blurring our understanding of him as solely a
`monster' and instead leading the reader to question the extent to which the Marquis is truly monstrous.
This deterioration between our understanding of the boundaries and opposition between good and evil is
a typical Gothic convention, which adds a sense of unease and frightening unpredictability to the story.
Sex is similarly a major theme within `The Bloody Chamber'. Already considered inappropriate by some
for placement within a fairy tale, Carter takes the theme one step further and introduces some taboo, but
nonetheless realistic, subjects which often arise in adult nightmares into her work. There are frequent,
graphic references to the sadomasochistic, voyeuristic nature of the relationship in `The Bloody
Chamber' the choker, which sits `like an extraordinarily precious slit throat', `bright as arterial blood',
his kiss `with tongue and teeth in it' and the explicit imagery of `a dozen husbands [impaling] a dozen
brides.' Not only does this further debase the stereotypical expectation of the chivalrous knight so often
expected within a fairy tale, but the links between violent punishment and sex allows Carter to address
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Whilst the Marquis inflicts his torturous lovemaking, the protagonist is shown to
take masochistic pleasure from such experience her `scarlet, palpitating core' connotes her passion
and desire as she `feels herself stirring' and, following his departure, states that she `longed for him'.…read more