Carter’s intent was to ‘extract the latent content from the traditional stories and use that as the beginnings of new stories’ when writing the Bloody Chamber. What ‘latent content’ can be found in the bloody chamber and how does Carter use that in her story? 1 HOUR
During the course of this essay I am hoping to look at what latent content has been used in Carter’s short story; the Bloody Chamber in reference to traditional stories. I am also hoping to explore why she uses this, whilst also challenging the traditional latent content within her story.
There is an immediate sense of latent content when the idea of a journey and of separation which is emphasised on the first page. “The train that bore me through the night” describes her travelling away from “Paris, away from girlhood” and the separation from her mother; “I ceased to be her daughter in becoming his wife”. This is a recurring theme throughout traditional stories whereby the daughter is usually separated from her caregiver; however there is an immediate challenge. An element of choice is highlighted by her mother, asking her if she is “sure” she “loves him?” The depiction of choice humanitises her situation, adding a modern twist. She is not forced to move away as traditional fairy tales often depict, allowing an instant challenge to the amount of latent content. Arguably Carter may do this to absorb the reader deeper in to the story, whereby with the use of the modern twist they can share a deeper understanding towards the main character, or Carter may do this in order to challenge the traditional morals and to incorporate her ideals and beliefs in to her writing based on her opinions on marriage and choice.
The idea of female ownership is also a theme present within the Bloody chamber which links to the latent content of traditional stories. It is seemingly obvious that the female narrator in the Bloody chamber is a very passive character, she is objectified by the Marquis in ‘becoming his wife’, ‘away from white’, ‘away from girlhood’, driving her away from purity. There are also suggestions of female repression within Carter’s writing. The Marquis controls and defers the sexual gratification until they reach the castle and objects such as the ring and the choker are arguably identify his power and control over her. She is ‘horseflesh’ and ‘cuts on a slab’, surveyed by his ‘carnival avarice’, which links back to Mulvey and the idea of sexual repression and objectifying the women as the objects of male desire. It is obvious that the love between the narrator and the marquis is reduced to hunger suggested by ‘cuts on a slab’ which holds negative connotations of meat and violence as their love is reduced to a physical appetite. The marquis also gains power by taking her virginity, the one thing that attracted him to her is now gone and she is left unclean. The mirrors multiply the power he has over her, he can see her from many different angles and can objectify her deeper. Carter may do this in order to exaggerate the theme of female virtue and repression that we see as an ongoing undertone within traditional stories, which all hold key ideas surrounding the ownership of women.
However there is another interpretation which contradicts this idea. The narrator is not completely ignorant; she holds understanding and displays this through the graphic imagery her narrations hold and through the horniness she suggests she feels. ‘Like a split fig’ provokes images of a sexual and sensual nature, illustrating her understanding and comfortable nature towards sex. Not only this but she is able to ‘sense corruption’ within herself, suggesting she acknowledges and understands what is becoming of her. This could suggest that Carter does this in order to make her seem like she is not innocent, contradicting the idea of female ownership in relation to latent content within traditional fairy tales.
The mother, the female matriarch of the story is also a direct contrasting idea to what we would normally find in a traditional story. The mother is seemingly the most active character in the story, she is strong and powerful, ‘eagle’ like, animalistic-ally courageous and overpowering. She is an abnormal female figure, she has ‘outfaced a junkful of Chinese pirates’ and ‘shot a man eating tiger’, all this which holds imagery which we would normally associate with the male hero of a traditional story, creating the illusion that the mother is equal to men, equally powerful, equally capable. Carter may do this in order to reflect women’s fight for justice and equality and the struggle for female independence. She may also do this in order to contradict the idea that women in the Bloody Chamber are not without freedom and identity, as the mother holds the idea of choice and power and equality to men.
Another strong contradiction is that of the piano tuner and his passive role as the male hero. In traditional stories the heroic male is the recurring saviour, he is strapping and selfless. However in the Bloody Chamber the piano tuner, the narrator’s ‘lover’ is blind, which holds connotations of weakness and does not play a remote part in the saviour of his lover. This content does not reflect that of a traditional story in fact quite the opposite. Carter may do this in order to represent the good and the evil within her strong depiction of male roles. However she could arguably do it to make the motherly role which Carter seemingly admires, seem ever stronger, as it depicts her as wise and knowledgeable because she was right in questioning her daughter marrying the Marquis.
Over all I would argue that there is latent content used within the Bloody Chamber that reflects the same themes that reside in tradition stories. However I would also argue that Carter uses a number of different elements such as the characters within her plot, which depict the nature of traditional stories very differently, for example the passive nature of female roles.