If sex and the fear of death are Carter's material and psychological concerns in these stories, why are they particularly thought of as feminist tales? Explore the lady of the house of love in light of this idea. (500-700 words)
In this short essay I will be exploring how sex and the fear of death are featured in Carters story; the lady of the house of love, and why if they are featured as the main concern Carter's works are seen as feminist tales.
During the course of the lady of the house of love there are numerous ideas surrounding sex interlinked with death. The countess lures her victims in to the bedroom; a room which is associated with sexual imagery and she murders them there. 'He will go in to the chamber which had been prepared for him', such imagery resembling that of the wedding night and the consummation of traditional marriage in such an arranged fashion. These references to the bedroom and an 'act' which is to take place are interlinked with the idea of fear, despite the soldiers unawareness of the real danger as "since he himself is immune to shadow, due to his virginity - he does not yet know what there is to be afraid of...and though he feels unease, he cannot feel terror". The references to his 'virginity', his pure and innocent form is corrupted by her vampiric act. Vampires are associated with penetration and the exchange of bodily fluids, which evokes similar imagery to that of the loss of a woman's virginity, suggesting she is going to contaminate him, further linking the references to sexual acts and a accompanied association with fear. This implies that Carter's main concern in that of sex and the fear of death during the lady of the house of love. It may also suggest that Carter is trying to associate sex in light of something negative, proposing it is psychologically harmful or perhaps even physically so, which is why such a strong association with fear and death is interlinked around it.
However this association with sex in a negative light could imply that it is taking more of a feminist input. The fact that Carter refers to the bedroom as a place of pain and death may in tern emphasise her pessimistic views towards sex, and or marriage and the repression of women through the loss of their virginity and furthermore purity and power. Despite this however there is a role reversal, which is un common in light of feminist texts, especially the work of Carter. She seemingly equals out the roles of men and women, with the Countess becoming the active character and the bicyclist becoming the passive role. She had 'four footed speed' and 'sharp fingernails' and hunts like a beast, she is animalistic and predatorial whilst the bicyclist becomes her victim, resembling that of week prey. However this is contradicted further by the fact the countess does not want her power over men, she does not want her role, 'nothing can console her for the ghastliness of her condition', she is the 'queen of terror', 'except her horrible reluctance for the role'. In comparison to books such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, the male antagonist is proud of his heritage and thrives in his evil ways, yet the countess wants nothing of it. This could imply from a feminist perspective that Carter believes women enjoy being passive in society to some extent, that they do not crave the power to overcome men, perhaps merely equality is enough?
Overall I would argue that sex and the fear of death are closely linked throughout the lady of the house of love and whilst they are both featured in Carter's material with many ambiguities and possible psychological messages, feminist ideas are still largely featured throughout her work and is a constant undertone in her writing.