Friday, 4 March 2011

Is the Courtship of Mr Lyon intended to be in the style of a traditional fairy tale?

Is The Courtship of Mr Lyon intended to be in the style of a traditional fairy tale? 500-700 words

There is an immediate sense of traditional fairy tales when the main female character is introduced. As an audience we expect her to be based on characters such as sleeping beauty and snow white; characters that are innocent and amiable. She is described within the first paragraph of the story as having an 'inner light' and 'all of snow'. The whiteness of the snow suggests she is pure and her inner light indicates she is radiant and trustworthy. Her skin possessing such radiance also suggests she is beautiful, another commonly explored theme in fairytales, she is 'unmarked', which connotes perfection and a sense of attraction. She is also doing 'her chores', she is seemingly a delightful, virtuous young girl, a further similarity with the female character and a tradition fairy tale heroin. This traditional characterisation of the female role within the Courtship of Mr Lyon emphasises that evidently, Carter employs strong elements of traditional tales in her story. Carter also uses the narrative tool of suggesting the characters are named merely by their purpose in their story, a component that is used in traditional stories. The female character is 'Beauty', and her feather 'Beauty's father', highlighting their primary role. However 'The Beast' does something unusual in acknowledging this technique 'Call me the Beast', suggesting he is aware of this characterisation tool. This unexpected awareness is something the reader may not necessarily anticipate whilst reading a fairy tale, suggesting The Courtship of Mr Lyon was not intended to be traditional in all aspects.

There is also an element of latent content within conventional fairytales regarding the uselessness of the paternal figure. In fairytales the father figure is often the cause of problems for example in Rumplestiltskin or Beauty and the Beast. In the Courtship of Mr Lyon it is on the second page the father needs to 'look for help' and manages to anger the Beast within the house, which his daughter pays the price for. This implies the story is indeed intended to follow the style of a traditional fairy tale.

However there is a lack of female repression presented throughout the story and also a void of the male gaze, two aspects which the reader would expect to find within a traditional fairytale. Beauty seems to instead captivate the beast, suggesting she is the one in control; "then, with a strange kind of wonder...the camera had captured a certain look she had". He seems to be under her beautiful spell and in no way does he repress or objectify her in an obvious way. Instead lunging himself on to his knees to kiss her hands similarly to a traditional gentleman, he strives to gain her approval. The male gaze seems inverted, "if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul". Her eyes seem to objectify him, 'piercing' him and challenging him, something we would not expect to see within a traditional story line of a fairytale.

Another major factor which is not explored during the Courtship of Mr Lyon that is normally incorporated within traditional fairytales, is the element of danger. There is usually a price to be paid, or a trap of some kind. However neither Beauty or her father ever receive any kind of threat, in fact quite the opposite. Instead both characters leave the luxurious lair of Mr Lyon to set off and divulge and succeed largely in the wider world. This indicates a significant different between Carter's short story and that of traditional fairy tales such as Rapunzel and sleepy Beauty for example.

We do however experience a happy ending, an end which all traditional fairy tales meet. "Mr and Mrs Lyon walk in the garden; the old spaniel drowses on the grass, in a drift of fallen petals". In the idyllic setting, the happy couple seem at peace and the reader gains a sense of relief. With such magical settings, such a happy ending and such beauty explored, despite the lack of female objectification and the void of male gaze, I would conclude that The Courtship of Mr Lyon is indeed intended to be more of a traditional fairytale rather than a corrupt story, similar to the Bloody Chamber.

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