Examine Carters representation of the effects of patriarchy on relationships in the Tigers Bride

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In the Tigers Bride (TB) Carter represents relationships in the traditional fairytale sense in that they are only successful when both partners are equal, creating a balance in their relationship. Patriarchy is shown to damage relationships, as the female tends to be unwilling to follow the male lead and obey their demands. It is only until the female is willing, that balance is created in the relationship and the affects of patriarchy are not felt.

In the opening of the TC we see a clear example of patriarchy affecting relationships. The narrator tells us that her father is has ‘lost’ his daughter to ‘The Beast at cards.’ Patriarchy is shown negatively here, as the father uses his daughter as an object to gamble away at his own pleasure. This objectification shows how dominant males feel that they can sell women at their own pleasure if it help them have fun, this is shown in the line ‘he laughs as with glee’ showing how the father almost enjoys losing his daughter at a game of cards. There is a lack of paternal care from the father as he considers his daughter an ‘object of financial value to be bargained with.’ However, at the time that this tale is set, women were seen as objects for which a man could use to bargain with, in order to enhance his own social or financial situation, as is seen in the tale. From a feminist perspective and certainly from Carter’s point of view, the overpowering patriarch in the narrator’s life shows how patriarchy affects relationships negatively in the sense that men can often see women as objects which they can use for their will.

The narrator’s decision to not return to her father later on the tale shows the damaging impact which objectification and patriarchy have on a relationship. Instead she decides to ‘wind up the soubrette and send her back to perform the part of her father’s daughter.’ This decision to use a machine as a daughter also shows the damaging affect of patriarchy in relationships. Carter’s use of the soubrette shows how women are meant to be subservient to a patriarchal society. The soubrette is a ‘maid’ and is also described as being beautiful i the sense that she has ‘rosy cheeks’ and ‘blue rolling eyes.’ We can see from this that in a patriarchal society, the ideal women is subservient and beautiful and without the capability of free thought. Patriarchy damages a women’s independence almost as by obeying male demands, they lose their identity, as the soubrette shows as she is simply ‘wind up’ and not living, and so loses that unique personality that all women have due to her being subservient in a patriarchal relationship with her master.

When the narrator gets her first request from the Beast to ‘see the pretty young lady unclothed nude without her dress’ we see her rebel against social constructs of patriarchy by letting out ‘a raucous guffaw.’ Through this response, Carter uses the protagonist to show the imbalance of patriarchy in a relationship, as neither the beast or the narrator are happy about the situation, as the narrator refuses to be naked and the Beast does not get his will. Neither is happy as there is no balance or equality in their relationship at this point. The use of the word ‘raucous’ shows the narrators shock at the request emphasising her unhappiness at the request of The Beast. The narrator is then punished for her response by being placed in a ‘veritable cell, windowless, airless, lightless’ again highlighting how patriarchy impacts a relationship negatively as if a women fails to meet demands of her male counterpart, he will use his power to punish her, which in this case is being placed in a prison like sell, eliminating all freedom the girl has.

It is not until the end of the tale that patriarchy is shown to have a positive impact on relationships. The narrators decision to visit The Beast and become one with him, brings balance to the tale. The Beast uses his power to ‘rip off skin after successive skin’ leaving behind a ‘nascent patina of shining hairs.’ The narrator’s decision to offer herself to the Beast, despite fears of him ‘gobbling her up’ empowers the Beast to transform his Beauty into a fellow tiger. This is a positive form of patriarchy as Beast uses his power to transform Beauty, rather than hurt her, and this conforms to the traditional fairy tale ending of happily ever after. The Beast and Beauty come together in unity, creating a balance in their relationship, as neither holds the power balance, in this new animalistic social system.

Alternatively however, from a feminist perspective, this ending is not satisfying as the female is seen as having to transform in to try to challenge male dominance. The line ‘the lamb must learn to run with the tigers’ emphasises this, as the women must transform in order to fit in with men, and not the other way around. This could perhaps show the power of patriarchy in relationships as women always have to try and be suitable for the male in order for the relationship to work, the man does not have to try and be good enough for the women as he owns her in a sense, again emphasising how women are objectified showing the negative impact which patriarchy has. 

Ben C. GCSE English Literature tutor, A Level English Literature tuto...

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