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Department of English and American Studies


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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts


Department of English
and American Studies



English Language and Literature
Teaching English Language and Literature for Secondary Schools


Bc. Nikola Wiedermanová


Daddy’s Girl Growing up

The Portrayal of Female Adolescence in Selected Fairy-Tale Figures by Angela Carter


Master’s Diploma Thesis


Supervisor: Prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A.


2012


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.



……………………………………………..

Bc. Nikola Wiedermanová


I would like to thank my supervisor, prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc. M.A., for all her kind guidance and valuable advice.


I would also like to thank all who supported and encouraged me while I was writing this thesis, especially my family and my dear friends from the Department of English and American Studies.


^ One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one.

– Simone de Beauvoir




Table of Contents


1 Introduction………………………………………………………………………….....3

1.1 The Fairy Tale and its Feminist Rewritings.…………………………………5

1.2 The Work of Angela Carter………………………………………………...10

1.2.1 The Magic Toyshop.........................................................................11

1.2.2 The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories………………………….13

1.2.3 Nights at the Circus. ………….…………………………………..16

1.3 Young Female Fairy-Tale Figures: Old and New…………………………..18

1.4 Feminist Foregrounding: Body, Voice and Gender………………………...21

1.4.1 Body………………………………………………………………21

1.4.2 Voice……………………………………………………………...22

1.4.3 Gender…………………………………………………………….24

2 New Bodies, New Sensations………………………………………………………...26

2.1 First Menstruation…………………………………………………………..26

2.2 A New Body………………………………………………………………..30

2.3 Virginity…………………………………………………………………….37

2.4 Chapter Conclusion…………………………………………………………41

3 Mothers and Other Mother Figures…………………………………………………..42

3.1 The Mother Myth…………………………………………………………...42

3.2 Women’s Relationships in Patriarchy………………………………………45

3.3 Mothers and Mother Figures as Girls’ Role Models……………………….49

3.4 A Brothel as an Alternative…………………………………………………53

3.5 Chapter Conclusion…………………………………………………………56

4 From Fathers to Husbands……………………………………………………………57

4.1 Father-Daughter Incest……………………………………………………...57

4.2 Sex and Desire……………………………………………………………...61

4.3 Marriage…………………………………………………………………….68

4.4 Chapter Conclusion…………………………………………………………70

5 Heroines in Process…………………………………………………………………...72

5.1 Melanie of The Magic Toyshop…………………………………………….72

5.2 Protagonists of “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Tiger’s Bride”…………75

5.3 Fevvers of Nights at the Circus……….……………………………………78

5.4 Chapter Conclusion…………………………………………………………79

6 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………81 Works Cited……………………………………….……………………………………84

Resume…………………………………………………………………………………87


1 Introduction

In this master thesis, adolescence of female fairy-tale figures of selected texts by Angela Carter is analyzed. The studied works are the novels The Magic Toyshop (1967) and Nights at the Circus (1984) and the collection of short stories The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979). Many of the characters of these books are girls at the end of their childhood or young women on the threshold of their adulthood, who in the course of the stories go through their puberty and adolescence and ultimately grow up and become women or at least significantly advance in this direction. Obviously, the process of growing up brings along many new roles and challenges. The girls’ bodies are changing, their sexuality is developing; their relationships and roles are altering as well – they are starting to take care of themselves, entering first partnerships and marriages, having first sex, and much more. And in all this, they are choosing who they want to be, learning to fend for themselves and trying to incorporate some fun and pleasure along the way.

The analysis here starts with the most obvious aspect of adolescence – physical changes, which include first menstruation, new (sensual) awareness of the developing body, or – in the case of Fevvers of ^ Nights at the Circus – of growing a pair of wings and learning how to use them to fly. Because adolescent girls are moving into roles occupied by their mothers, stepmothers, aunts and nannies, next it is explored what influence these characters have on the young heroines, to what extent the girls follow in their footsteps, and, importantly, what their mutual relationships are. Special attention is paid to the “mother myth” that Carter deconstructs. The thesis then continues with the topic of the relationship with fathers, husbands and other men, and of living in a patriarchal world, where the violence on and abuse of women is an everyday reality. Relationships with men are explored also from the more positive side of love and affectionate sex, and the traditional pattern of marriage is discussed as well. Still further in the thesis, it is attempted to answer questions of how the heroines themselves reflect on the changes and the development they are going through and how the things that happen to them in their adolescence shape them.

The fact that the adolescence of the selected female figures is interpreted in fairy-tale terms leads to another dimension of the analysis. As is shown here, the genre of fairy tale has become a patriarchal project to keep women in their places, and this has become especially visible in the female characters of the genre. Thus it is discussed here how Carter’s portrayal of young heroines reflects back on its classical counterpart. Given the fact that the fairy tale was significantly altered under the patriarchal influence, it seems natural that this thesis is grounded in feminist theory, especially of the French feminist thinkers of the second half of the twentieth century. The feminist concepts followed in this thesis are those of the female body, voice and gender.

This thesis shows that Carter’s young fairy-tale heroines grow up to be independent women who reflect on their development and actively influence their lives. In a way, they do not have any other option. In the world of Carter’s texts, all roles that young women are traditionally expected to have are deconstructed. The women are not pure in their virginity but well aware of their sexuality and active in the search for its realization. They cannot hope that in marriage they will live in love and partnership, because husbands can turn out to be one’s fiercest enemy. Also motherhood is shown as not everything it is cracked up to be. When all the certainties and stereotypes are taken away from them, the heroines need to accept the responsibility for themselves and their lives and learn how to make use of every bit of the power they have.

Main secondary sources that were used for the analysis here include the collection of scholarly essays ^ Angela Carter and the Fairy Tale, which offers various views of Angela Carter’s fairy-tale work; Cristina Bacchilega’s study Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies, which extensively deals with Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, and Linden Peach’s work Angela Carter, where she analyzes and evaluates all Carter’s work with a special focus on the development of her novel. The feminist aspect of this thesis is supported by Ann Rosalind Jones’s essay “Writing the Body: Toward an Understanding of ‘L’Ecriture Feminine’” and Sandra M. Glibert’s study “Life’s Empty Pack: Notes toward a Literary Daughteronomy,” where she analyzes the woman’s psycho-sexual development in terms of the father-daughter incestuous relationship.

Angela Carter does not provide straightforward solutions to the questions her texts pose. As Franková remarks, her answers remain hidden under a rich layer of images, allegories and allusions (47). It also seems that in every meaning that the reader discovers in her texts, there is an aspect, perhaps only a detail, which serves to undermine it. Thus this thesis inevitably offers only one out of many possible readings of Carter.


    1. ^ The Fairy Tale and its Feminist Rewritings

Although the idea that comes to one’s mind with the term ‘fairy tale’ may be one of a notoriously known story for children such as “Cinderella”, “Little Red Riding Hood,” or “Three Little Pigs,” scholars and writers over the past few decades have shown that there is much more to the genre of fairy tale than that. In her study Myth and Fairy Tale in Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Susan Sellers overviews some theories on the nature and characteristics of the genre. For example, as she notes, for Maria Tatar, the “crucial identifying feature is the way fairy tale reverses all the conditions outlined at the beginning of the story” (9). Cronan Rose sees fairy tales as “embryonic stories of development” (10), and also Bruno Bettelheim focuses on the social and psychological function when he claims that fairy tales “symbolically present the path to independent existence by reducing the complicated and difficult process of socialization to its constituent paradigms” (10). In the The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English, Bacchilega reminds us that it is characteristic of fairy tales that they “perform magic” and that “they have traditionally fulfilled complex, even conflicting, desires, and they have done so with ease, reassuring predictability, dazzling variety and adaptability” (“Fairy Tale” 231). The listing of various definitions of the fairy tale could continue for much longer, yet for the purposes of this thesis it is more important to note the feminist approaches and strategies.

The connection between women and the fairy tale has been complex and somewhat double-edged: on the one hand, many scholars have acknowledged and researched the women’s role in telling and shaping the stories, on the other hand, it seems that at some point this originally oral, flexible and women-dominated genre got under the spell of canonization forces and was significantly altered. Haase takes note of the significance of women for the tale and of the tale for women when he mentions that “storytelling is a semiotically female art,” as was purportedly argued by Karen E. Rowe by “pointing not only to women’s traditional roles of storytellers but also to the ways they have been represented as the spinners of tales in folktale collections, frame stories, and literary tales. She showed that through their association with the fates, fairies, and spinning, women are identified with the art and power of spinning tales” (17). Some scholars have gone even further when searching for the link between the fairy tale and women. Haase remarks how Göttner Abendroth influentially argues that “fairy tales reflect the practices and customs of prehistorical societies, which were in her view ‘primarily matriarchal societies’” and that they “contain remnants of a prehistoric matriarchal mythology” (15). In this view, fairy tales did not only belong to the women’s sphere of power because they were told, shaped and kept alive by them, but also because they carried evidence of their once prominent social status.

However, it appears that women lost the power connected with the genre. Haase mentions Jack Zipes’s research into the history and sociology of fairytale: “In specific sociohistorical contexts Zipes demonstrated how the folktale had been appropriated and reappropriated by European and American writers as a special discourse on sociocultural values and how that fairy-tale discourse was intended to function in the socialization of children – especially in its modeling of gender-specific identity and behavior” (10). Thus the fairytales we know today are loaded with prescriptions on what was once established as appropriate. The development of European fairy tales over the past few centuries is recognized as an instance of such appropriation and reappropriation:

Women tellers, as ‘oral informants,’ and women characters abound in this literary tradition, but their words are arranged, cut, embellished by Charles Perrault (^ Les Histoires ou contes du temps passé, 1697), the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen in the 19th century, L.Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Disney’s glittery films and picture books in the 20th century – to list only the most prominent names. […] And as the audience for fairy tales increasingly narrowed to children and women, the wise girl, the bawdy wife, the brave sister, the bold maiden were hidden away. (Bacchilega “Fairy Tale” 231)

It is significant here that the change of audience and the limitations put on female heroines are connected. Fairy tales gradually became the socialization stories that Zipes suggests, and at the same time children came to be exposed to very little female power through the stories. Young girls thus had fewer strong female role models to follow and young boys were not shown that female power was at all possible. It is interesting that despite this ideological shift, the tales – or at least their plots – somehow seem to have stayed the same. As Haase points out, Ruth Bottigheimer studied alternations the Grimms made when recording the originally oral tales and their eventual effects:

Bottigheimer demonstrated how the Grimms’ editorial interventions – including their apparently simple lexical revisions – weakened once-strong female characters, demonized female power, imposed a male perspective on stories voicing women’s discontents, and rendered heroines powerless by depriving them of speech, all in accord with the social values of their time. (11)

It is suggested here that relatively minor changes in wording, point of view and ways of narration brought about significant changes in the values and power dynamics the tales carried. Thus stories that probably came into being when the fairy tale had still been a women-dominated genre now started to work against them and to serve as a tool to keep them in their place in a patriarchal society.

Given this ironic development, it comes as no surprise that feminist writers have tried to repossess the genre of fairy tale, rediscover its lost dimensions and use it again for their own good. As Bacchilega notes, there has been a long tradition of female rewriting of fairy tales. This tradition has now stretched over three centuries and has been present in works of such writers as Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti or Jean Rhys. The late twentieth century brought about a real boom in rewriting and reappropriating of fairy tale, with writers Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Anne Saxton, Emma Donogue, Marina Warner and many others contributing to this development (“Fairy Tale” 233).

Yet many critics are skeptical about whether it is possible and worth the effort to revive the lost voices and viewpoints of fairy tales. Susan Sellers researches into the various attitudes to this issue and in this context mentions Purkiss, who is convinced that “the endeavour to retrieve a buried or marginal voice has the paradoxical function of endorsing the original myth.” Sellers goes on to the postcolonial critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who even suggests “that it is impossible to restore a voice that has been dispossessed, since the very act serves to re-cover it” (27). It is perhaps true that every reading of a rewritten fairy tale brings to life also its stereotypical version enforced by the Disney cartoon, but maybe these stereotyped and canonized versions should not be overrated. Sellers quotes Elizabeth Bronfen’s persuasion that “the disruption caused leaves traces” (28), and perhaps today’s fairy-tale canon is not disruption-proof. Sellers expresses her own optimistic idea of the strategies and functions of feminist rewritings of fairy tales: “Feminist rewriting could […] include ironic mimicry and clever twists as well as whole gamut of tactics that would open the myth from the inside as well as out, leaving in place enough of the known format to provide evocative points of reflection for its readers, but also encompassing different possibilities and other points of view” (29). This approach reminds us of planting a woodworm into a wooden construction and letting it live there and build its small mazes, only to find out years later that it has made the construction dysfunctional. Angela Carter herself says about the undermining effects of rewriting: “I am all for putting new wine into old bottles, especially if the pressure of the new wine makes the old bottles explode” (qtd in Makinen 5). The numerous writers who have told and written their versions of fairy tales obviously believe that it is still possible to rescue the genre of fairy tale for women and make it a women’s tool of coding and carrying their experience once again.

^ 1.2 The Work of Angela Carter

Angela Carter (1940 – 1992) is a well-known and prize-winning postmodern British writer and literary critic. Her daring and experimental work has been regarded as pioneering by some and as controversial or even insulting by others. Following Linden Peach’s listing, over twenty-six years, Angela Carter completed nine novels: Shadow Dance (1966), The Magic Toyshop (1967), Several Perceptions (1968), Heroes and Villains (1969), Love (1971), The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffmann (1972), The Passion of New Eve (1977), Nights at the Circus (1984) and Wise Children (1991); five collections of short stories: Fireworks: Nine Profane Pieces (1974), The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979), Black Venus (1985) and American Ghosts & Old-World Wonders (published posthumously in 1993); and several works of non-fiction, including for example The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (1979), Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings (1982) and Expletives Deleted: Selected Writings (1992). Importantly, Angela Carter also edited and translated The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault (1977) and Sleeping Beauty and Other Favourite Fairy Tales (1982) and also edited two collections for Virago: The Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1990) and The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales (1992). Carter is also an author of four collections of children’s stories and four radio plays (2).

One of the threads winding through all her work would probably be what Gerrard calls “mocking iconoclasm” (qtd in Peach 2) – the effort to playfully uncover and undermine rigid but false assumptions people have about the world and the society they live in. Angela Carter famously wrote that she was “in the demythologizing business” (qtd in Sage 79). In an interview, she explains what she means by this: “Well, I’m basically trying to find out what certain configurations of imagery in our society, in our culture, really stand for, what they mean, underneath the kind of semireligious coating that makes people not particularly want to interfere with them”(Interview). This effort could be traced in all her work, disguised in many forms and strategies.

Fairy tales are certainly a rich source of false ideologies, and yet they are special, due to their folk origin. As Carter says about her fairy-tale writing: “This is how I make potato soup” (qtd in Sage 79), which Sage interprets as that “fairy tales are less than myths […]. They are volatile, anybody’s” (79). In this understanding, fairy tales offer themselves to rewriting, deconstructing and being shaped into new or once-and-future versions. As many fairy tales historically appeared in a number of coexisting variations, the process of multiplying the versions of fairy tales in order to offer other viewpoints seems fully in accordance with the genre’s nature.

Because any attempt to characterize Carter’s fairy-tale work in general would by far exceed the space of this introduction, it may be better to look specifically at the texts analyzed here, at their stories, their fairy-tale features, and the receptions and critiques of them.

^ 1.2.1 The Magic Toyshop

Carter’s second novel, The Magic Toyshop (1967), tells a story of fifteen-year-old Melanie and her two younger siblings, who lose their parents in an airplane accident and have to move to London to live with Uncle Philip, whom they have never seen before. Uncle Philip, a toymaker and an owner of a toyshop, turns out to be an autocratic brute, who manipulates the lives of all around him: his mute wife Margaret and her two brothers, Finn and Francie. Melanie has a hard time getting used to her new ascetic life, but tries to create ties to her new family and even starts a relationship with Finn. As the events around her forced enactment of Leda’s story and the uncovered unfaithfulness of Aunt Margaret culminate, Uncle Philip sets the house on fire. Melanie and Finn together manage to escape.

Because of the character of Uncle Philip and the way all inhabitants of his house seem subordinated to him, this novel can be read as a critique of, or – as Makinen calls it – as a “disquietingly savage analysis of patriarchy” (3), which she sees as characteristic of Carter’s novels of the 1960s and 1970s.

The numerous fairy-tale features that can be traced in this novel include the motif of orphaned children who go to live with a new family and have to face hardships there, and also the setting of a toyshop and the possibility that toys may become alive – as is suggested in the theatre play where Melanie is raped by a puppet-swan – is fairy-tale-like. Furthermore, Uncle Philip’s house, with its corridors, numerous rooms and atmosphere of fear and mystery strongly reminds of Bluebeard’s castle. Of the fairy-tale features that Linden Peach observes, it is worthwhile to mention the theme of transgression and its punishment. As she notes on the genre of fairy tale: “The stories acquired a moral which often arose out of a young girl being punished or brought to ‘wisdom’ through realizing the foolishness of transgression” (74). Peach sees such a transgression in Melanie’s trying on her mother’s wedding dress, which was followed by the airplane crash and their forced leaving for London (73). It is important for the purposes of this thesis that in The Magic Toyshop, fairy-tale elements reach to the bare plot of the story and to the fate of the main female character. In this way, the character’s experience and development can be discussed within the extended frame of the genre of fairy tale.


^ 1.2.2 The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979) is a collection of ten short stories that can be seen as rewritings of classical fairy tales such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Bluebeard,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White” or “The Sleeping Beauty.” Carter strategically plays with the classical tales. Among other things, she transposes the stories into modern times where there are trains, cars and telephones, she tells the story or lets the story be told from the heroine’s point of view, or she explores the various possible backgrounds behind the tales. Perhaps most significantly, and in a sharp contrast with the tales in the Grimms’ or Perrault’s versions, Carter’s characters are sexual beings and her tales are charged with eroticism.

Carter opens the fairy tales to new readings and new meanings, and she achieves this also by offering more – often somewhat contrary – variations on the same tale. For example, the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” is rewritten into two different short stories, the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” into three. It is suggested that this multiplicity aims to activate the reader: “By providing stories that can be read as echoing one another […], Carter prompts readers to view a particular type of situation from a variety of perspectives” (Roemer 108). But it seems that the stories not only “can be read as echoing one another,” but they even have to be read in this way, in the context of the whole collection. Crunelle-Vanrigh shows the necessity of contextual reading on the example of the story “The Courtship of Mr Lyon”: “Not one of the stories at play in The Bloody Chamber can be said to signify in itself, though it can be enjoyed on its own. The meaning of “Courtship” is constructed through a process of referring to other texts. Coming from, and pointing back and forward, to other stories, it is only one signifier in the process of referring to other, absent signifiers.” She goes on to mention that “The Courtship of Mr Lyon” is thus intertwined with “The Tiger’s Bride,” but also with “The Snow Child” and “Wolf-Alice” (139). It is significant that generally the stories of this collection are not only interconnected with the stories with which they share the underlying fairy tale, but also with (all) others. Every tale thus needs to be read in the context of the whole collection, even if this may in a way disrupt the tale that is being read.

Although the stories of the collection are obviously postmodern texts, this does not mean that they are devoid of their fairy-tale roots. On the contrary, Bacchilega is convinced that Carter brings to life forgotten aspects of the genre. She states in connection with the “Little Red Riding Hood” stories of the collection:

I want to argue that Angela Carter’s postmodern rewritings are acts of fairy-tale archeology that release this story’s many other voices. As an enthusiastic listener/reader of both folk and literary tales, and as a writer who draws from many versions, oral and literary, Carter tells tales that reactivate lost traditions, trace violently contradictory genealogies, and flesh out the complex and vital workings of desire and narrative. (Postmodern Fairy Tales 59)

It is then remarkable that although Carter works within the traditions of the genre and with well-known tales, she makes a full use of the authorial influence of a teller of the tales.

The aspects of the fairy tales that Carter as their teller chooses to emphasize, including the portrayal of sexual and power relations, have often been seen as controversial and disconcerting. Indeed, Carter’s collection ^ The Bloody Chamber has had not only many enthusiastic reviewers, but also many upset critics. Interestingly, Bruhl and Gamer notice: “Perhaps the primary irony surrounding the reception of The Bloody Chamber is that it has generated the most controversy among feminist critics” (147). They also remind us that Angela Carter earned from feminist theoreticians many denominations on behalf of her work: “a pseudofeminist” (Dworkin), “an apologist fleeing to a ‘literary sanctuary’ outside of political criticism” (Kappeler), or “the high priestess of post-graduate porn” (Sebestyen) (149). Bacchilega overviews still other critics of Carter’s The Bloody Chamber: also from a feminist point of view, Patricia Dunker criticizes Carter for working within the fairy tale, for “rewriting the tales within the strait-jacket of their original structures” (Bacchilega Postmodern Fairy Tales 51).” Dunker is convinced that Carter in this way inevitably reinforces the rigid patterns of female sexuality: “By amplifying these images, conflicts, and transformations [of the fairy tales], Carter’s revisions simply confirm sado-masochistic arrangements instead of conceiving of “women’s sexuality as an autonomous desire” (51). As Bacchilega further reports, Robert Clark sees Carter’s feminist merits as doubtful as well. In his view, Carter’s fictions generally “offer their readers a knowledge of patriarchy” yet reinscribe “patriarchal attitudes” (51). These are only a few of the critical voices that have been raised in response to The Bloody Chamber, and especially to its sexual politics.

Considering the sources of problematic reception of ^ The Bloody Chamber, Bruhl and Gamer observe that what makes it “problematic for both student and critical audiences is the glee with which it mixes disciplines and refuses to draw recognizable battlelines” (148). As an example they offer the story “The Bloody Chamber,” which on the one hand works as a “critique of sadomasochism,” but on the other hand includes such descriptions of the satin nightdress or leather clothes that suggest that the heroine is complicitous in sensual desires (149). Certainly, many situations and scenes of this kind can be found in Carter’s texts, and they show that her characters are not simply good or bad, and the fictitious world of her fairy tales is not only black and white, but has many colours in many shades.

^ 1.2.3 Nights at the Circus

The novel Nights at the Circus (1984), narrates the story of Fevvers, a young winged woman and a famous circus aerialist. At the beginning, Fevvers gives an interview and an account of her life to an American journalist Walser, who decides to join the circus as a clown and follow her incognito to Petersburg and then over Siberia to Japan in order to reveal her as a hoax. They fall in love with each other and in the end become a couple, after many adventures, including Fevvers’s saving Walser from a Siberian shaman.

There are many characters and their numerous stories are introduced in the novel as well, among others those of other inhabitants of Madame Schreck’s museum of women monsters, of other artists of the circus or of the female convicts in a Siberian penitentiary, but Fevvers’s story remains central. She is a unique character; half-woman, half-bird; she is symbolically, as Madam Nelson says, “the pure child of the century that just now is waiting in the wings, the New Age in which no women will be bound down to the ground (Nights at the Circus 25). Financially independent, experienced and ambitious, she really is, in a way, an embodiment of a new, liberated woman. But she is no simplistic character, and many opposing elements meet in her: she is a performing star with Cockney roots, a virgin who knows the tricks of a prostitute, and a diamond lover with a big heart.

As for the fairy-tale aspects of this novel, although it cannot be seen as a rewriting of a specific tale, many fairy-tale motifs can be traced here. Fevvers is a hatched orphan on her journey to love and happiness, which – together with her changing feelings of beauty and ugliness – evokes Andersen’s tale “The Ugly Duckling.” It is also put forth here that her adoptive mother, Lizzy, does tricks and magic. Furthermore, certain polemics or mirroring of fairy tales can be found here, for example in the characters of Madame Schreck’s museum. For instance, the girl called the Sleeping Beauty, suddenly, on the day of her first period, starts to sleep more and more, until she spends no more than a few minutes a day awake. Such, in a way medicinal description of excessive need to sleep offers itself to physiological and psychological rationalizations like diseases, or depression, or self-denial and allows the reader to see the well-known fairy-tale character of Sleeping Beauty in a new light. Or, another inhabitant of the museum, Wonder, of unusually short height, looks back on the time she spent with seven men of similar height that she met when they performed “The Snow White”: “‘Suffice to say I traveled with them seven long months, passed from one to another, for they were brothers and believed in share and share alike. I fear they did not treat me kindly, for, although they were little, they were men’” (68). It is thus put forward that excessive sleep may not only be caused by thorns and cohabiting with seven men may not be only idyllic, and that perhaps this is only a beginning of uncovering of what is not right in fairy tales. Also in this way Carter explores meanings of folk tales, opens them to new readings and reveals the ideologies inscribed in them.

It has been proposed that ^ Nights at the Circus can be seen as a continuation of previous works. Linden Peach writes: “Carter’s works are best read not as independent texts, but as part of an ongoing process of writing. Whilst to some degree this may be true of any author, it is especially true of Carter” (22). This dimension of Carter’s writing will prove useful for this thesis, as the powerful character of Fevvers will be at times taken here as an answer to the questions posed by young female heroines of her other works. However, although Carter’s writing can be seen as one process, it cannot be said that it did not change. The process Linden Peach talks about is a development. Merja Makinen observes the progress made between Carter’s first and last works:

This is not to argue that the latter novels are not also feminist, but their strategy is different. The violence in the events depicted in the earlier [of the 1960s and 1970s] novels (the rapes, the physical and mental abuse of women) and the aggression implicit in the representations, are no longer foregrounded. While similar events may occur in these last two texts [Nights at the Circus and Wise Children], the focus is on mocking and exploding the constrictive cultural stereotypes and in celebrating the sheer ability of the female protagonist to survive, unscathed by the sexist ideologies. (3)

Given the scope of the text analyzed here and this development, it follows that the experience of the heroines ranges from going through abuse and recovering from it or fighting out their own inner space in a restrictive environment - as in The Magic Toyshop or “The Bloody Chamber” – to withstanding attempted abuse by fleeing from it and ridiculing it, as Fevvers does in Nights at the Circus. Thus a whole range of women’s experience is offered for the analysis here.





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