‘Characters in gothic writing are always haunted by their past mistakes and often have to face terrible consequences’ Discuss some of the characters in the text you have read in light of this comment.

Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is a collection of short stories based on traditional fairy tales and folklore. Written in 1979 at the peak of second wave feminism, Carter subverts these narratives to confront the misogyny that she sees in the original tales as well as in the feminist struggle for equal rights and sexual liberation. As a result, Carter’s writing creates what E. M. Forster calls “round characters [who] cannot be summed in a single phrase”. In subverting the gothic tradition, Carter undermines the conventional idea that gothic characters are always haunted by their past mistakes, instead preferring an empowering remodelling of fairy tales that allow women to be more than 2D victims. The titular story in this collection follows the unnamed female narrator in her marriage to the Marquis. The inspiration for this tale is taken from ‘Bluebeard.’ The narrator suffers a series of traumatic ordeals in her marriage that takes her to the suitably gothic “faery solitude” of the Marquis’ castle as well as to the eponymous bloody chamber. Carter uses the chamber as a liminal space that represents the Marquis’ desire to “acquire” his wives completely. This mirrors a central critique during second wave feminism where women sought equal sexual marriage rights, particularly focusing on the issue of marital rape. By commenting on the “striking resemblance between the act of love and the ministrations of murder”, Carter explicitly links the danger of love and marriage for women as a metaphorical death or their independence and sexual liberation. The structure of the short story until this point implies that the girl will be the latest victim to join the Marquis’ ex-wives in the chamber. However, Carter provides an empowering subversion to the tale when the girl’s mother comes to rescue her, putting ‘a single irreproachable bullet’ through the Marquis’ head. Consequently, the narrative is concluded by a gender-reversal of the prince-charming motif. It is the mother that is the tale’s saviour and the girl is given a renewed voice outside of her marriage to the Marquis. Although she is haunted by her mistakes in the form of the “mark on her forehead”, Carter does not allow the girl to become a victim through a subverted ‘happily ever after’ ending. 

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