December Discussion: The Bloody Chamber

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December Discussion: The Bloody Chamber

MsMegan
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Welcome to our December discussion of Angela Carter's seminal 1979 collection, The Bloody Chamber! I am reading from the 1993 Penguin edition, with the white tower and bloody ocean on the cover.

Instead of seed questions, I'm just going to launch into some thoughts on this collection and see if that's a bit more organic.

Carter unleashed a torrent of interest in fairy and folk narratives and was one of the first wave of feminists to reclaim and reexamine fairy tales. She uses familiar narratives as a prism through which to examine the roles and function of women, the politics of love, and the balance between innocence and corruption.  Sex, violence, sensuality and autonomy are all at play in her writing.

I'm fascinated by the lush denseness of her writing. It's baroque and ornamental, then abruptly curt and earthy. So much of her stories are creating the scene and laying tension upon tension by spooling out ever-darker metaphors (especially in the titular story!).

But I'm getting carried away, since we're mostly here to discuss The Courtship of Mr. Lyon and The Tiger's Bride.

I actually really like The Courtship of My Lyon. It's a tame and gentle story compared to others in the collection (especially The Bloody Chamber and The Snow Child) but I think it has a lovely air to it. I always imagine it set somewhere between the twenties and the forties. I love the delicate quiet of the settings, the gentleness shyness of Mr Lyon, and the prim and proper liver-spotted spaniel who negotiates the whole affair. This story's prettiness might have something to with it having been written for Vogue magazine. I wonder if it had an accompanying photo spread!

The Tiger's Bride is an entirely different beast. It's darker story, more in keeping with the rest of the book (puss in boots excluded!) and it doesn't pull any punches. The heroine is blunt and unforgiving --she shreds The Beast's roses, is repelled by his smell and disgusted by her pathetic father. But I think that frankness is why, in the end, she is well suited to The Beast. They both agree, in the end, to strip away pretences.

The pacing in Tiger's bride feels a bit strange to me, though. I always feel like the climax ought to take place by the riverbank, and the lull when they go back to the palazzo sort of shakes me out of the story. I like that she sends the marionette back in her place, but a clockwork robot feels out of place in a story that is otherwise filled with animals and decay.

I wonder, if the heroine had agreed to let The Beast (capitalized! Like my own Beast...) see her naked, would he have become a man? And does she become his bride (presumably a tiger?) instead, because she saw him unclothed first?

I love this whole collection and I'm game to talk about any and all of it. If we need separate headings, let me know.

(in personal braggery, My charming husband read "Puss in Boots" out loud to me last night after I said he might enjoy it. The story is delightfully raunchy and it was hilarious. He's wonderful.)

read Beauty and The Beast online!
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Re: December Discussion: The Bloody Chamber

MsMegan
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I was giving this a bit more thought, and I realized I was being far too literal with Tiger's Bride. it' s not about a girl becoming a tiger. it's about a girl becoming liberated.

The whole story is about shedding skins. The girl is confronted with a tiger dressed as a man, She knows from the start something is off, but can't name it until well into the narrative. Basically, she's locked into what she has been taught to be -- by her father, by society, by, dare I say, the patriarchy --and it is literally painful for her to shed those notions and face the tiger, which is, of course, her true self. And when she can finally face that, she shrugs off even her tiger-tear earrings, which have only ever been water.

I found this a pretty heady realization, especially in the hyper-sexualized media climate we're trapped in these days. It's terrifying to consider appearing naked before the tiger.
read Beauty and The Beast online!
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Re: December Discussion: The Bloody Chamber

elfqueenvik
The Courtship of My Lyon
There was a certain otherworldly quality to it that drew me in, specifiably the beasts mansion was so strange from everything else. I liked the Beast he was gentle and I liked the scene where her had his head in Beauty's lad and was licking her hands.  It was a very vulnerable side to him that you don't often see. The spaniel made me think of a little old lady all prim and popper, she was very cute. My only complaint was the story seemed a tad rushed and I never got a scene of Beauty's character but I did like how when she was back with her father living a privileged life how she began to loose sight of her self and become empty, this was an interesting take on the story because in most retelling you see the contrast of Beauty in the characters of her sister and how selfish and cruel they are (or Gaston for that matter) so it was interesting to see that character flaw in Beauty even if it was for a brief time.

The Tigers Bride
I was drawn into the story very quickly. I loathed the Father, and while Beauty comes of as perhaps cruel I think that is because of the situation she was put in by her horrid father. I did not find the clockwork doll out of place but it was kinda creepy that it resembled beauty. I aslo find in interesting when she first looked into the mirror and saw her father she became afraid that she had become him. I find the beast sad in away and that it is interesting that he dresses in a disguise. I liked how at the end Beauty be came a tiger and literally shedding everything that she had once been.
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Re: December Discussion: The Bloody Chamber

Stitchlingbelle
In reply to this post by MsMegan
Ah, the Blood Chamber! It's the first one I've had to reread for the discussion, it's been so long. I'll admit this is where my biases start showing; I prefer popular literature to Literature, so even though the language is lovely and so thick you can run your fingers through it, I tend to like the stories less.

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon is definitely the more straightforward of the two, and the only real additions are the spaniel and Beauty's losing herself away from Mr. Lyon. The spaniel I can take or leave, but the bit about Beauty is interesting, since she can be such a sinless cipher in short stories like this one. It's particularly interesting, in that she's not showered with more riches in the city than she had with Mr. Lyon-- but somehow they mean something completely different to her in this new context.

I also think it's fascinating that it's called the courtship of Mr. Lyon, which also seems to me to imply that he's the one being courted, instead of the other way around. And he is so gentle that he seems more passive than he actually is-- making Beauty's father bring her to dinner, arranging to restore their fortunes and send him away in one fell swoop, keeping Beauty, etc. The hand-kissing is also very active, shockingly forward in fact. And yet, this version tries to point out something that other versions don't necessarily, which is Beauty's complete power over the Beast and his fate.

Beauty also has complete power in The Tiger's Bride. I'm not sure if Carter meant to reference the old story, but I assume she must-- it's an old variation of Bluebeard, where the tiger eats the maidens. The tiger here is definitely trying to eat her (but why?) and she definitely turns the tables on him. This isn't the only version of BatB I've read where she turns into a beast at the end, but it's definitely the most sensual. The others tend to focus more on running through the woods and such.

I like how the two stories play with some of the (opposing) images I have for BatB stories in general-- in one she's living in luxury, in the other in decay; in one he's a gentleman, in the other he's genuinely beastly in both senses. (I once made a long list of motifs that appear in my personal platonic ideal of the story; it had quite a few contrasts in it...)

Overall, I enjoy dissecting the stories as much or more than I like reading them. I always want to wrap myself up in the story like a blanket, but this particular blanket would probably eat me.
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