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Bluebeard by Perrault and the Bloody Chamber by Carter Essay

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Updated: Oct 31st, 2021

Introduction

Fairy tales constitute a specific part of the literary legacy that the mankind has created through its history. The ways in which fairy tales were compiled and presented have changed with the course of time, so have the topics and morals of the tales, but the essence of these literary pieces ha remained the same – they teach people the basics of life. Drawing from this, the definition of a fairy tale is important as usually there are no fairies involved in the tales. As Marcia Lane argues, “a fairy tale is a story-literary or folk-that has a sense of the numinous, the feeling or sensation of the supernatural or the mysterious. But, and this is crucial, it is a story that happens in the past tense, and a story that is not tied to any specifics”1. Based on this definition, this paper will examine and critically compare The Bluebeard by Perrault and The Bloody Chamber by Carter in order to see how morals and topics of fairy tales have changed over time.

Main body

To begin with, it is necessary to state that The Bluebeard is a masterpiece of the world literature created by the famous French author Charles Perrault. As the genre of literature with a long history (the first fairy tales date back to 100 – 200 AD), fairy tales examine the eternal issues of human lives, and the piece of work by Perrault is not an exception. The major plot line of the tale is the story about a man, who “had a blue beard, and this made him so ugly and frightful that there was not a woman or girl who did not run away at sight of him”2. When finally a girl dared to marry him, she barely escaped the faith of several other former wives of the Bluebeard. Going away on business, the Bluebeard instructed his wife: “I forbid you so seriously that if you were indeed to open the door, I should be so angry that I might do anything.”3 Nevertheless, she could not hold her curiosity and opened the room mentioned to see the bodies of the Bluebeard’s wives hanging on the walls with their throats cut. After his return, the Bluebeard cam to know of his wife’s deed and was about to kill her for disobedience, and only her brothers managed to save her and kill the Bluebeard.

Drawing from this story, its major ideas can be limited to the depiction of the human curiosity and the negative outcomes it might bring. Moreover, the stereotyped attitude towards women and their rights as wives can also be observed as one of the main ideas of this tale, which nevertheless, connects the story with the present day reality. In more detail, the topic of curiosity and the punishment for it is reflected in the fairy tale by Perrault through the character of the wife of the Bluebeard. Living in a splendid house with lots of gold and other fascinating things, this woman did not cope with her wish to look inside the forbidden room and was almost dead for this weakness of hers: “So overcome with curiosity was she that, without reflecting upon the discourtesy of leaving her guests, she ran down a private staircase, so precipitately that twice or thrice she nearly broke her neck, and so reached the door of the little room.”4 Although, this case’s outcome was positive for the woman who remained alive, the morals of the tale says that “ladies, you should never pry,—

You’ll repent it by and by!”5 Although written almost in a century after The Bluebeard, Carter’s story displays parallels with it.

The story depicts a young girl who marries an old rich man whom she does not love. What makes her decide this way is the wish to feel an adult, to start the life separate from her lonely mother, and the curiosity of what it is like to be married. Her husband, Marquise, does not scare her but his characteristics and eyes with “absolute absence of light”6 fill her with disgust. Being asked by her mother about her feelings, the girl answers that “I’m sure I want to marry him.”7 But after arriving to Marquise’s castle, the girl comes to know about his perverted sexual preferences and a strong wish to enter the forbidden room overtakes her. Marquise, having learnt about the occasion, decides to kill his wife as he has done with all the previous wives. It is the presence of Jean-Yves and the arrival of the girl’s mother that save her life, while Marquise is killed. In the outcome of the story, the parallel to the fairy tale by Perrault can also be observed in the fact that the curiosity is punished but the evil is finally overcome by the good.

The parallels to the mentioned fairy tale are not limited by the final scene. The very idea of the unequal marriage which results in the conflict of interests and ends up fatally is also taken from Perrault. The image of the so-called “Reproof of Curiosity” is also symbolic to the story by Carter. Trying to adjust Perrault’s fairy tale to the modern reality, Carter (1998) introduces the modern symbols in her story, among which the forbidden porn pictures are present. However, the similarities between the two pieces of literature are also observed in the images of the forbidden room in which the young girl finds the dead bodies of her husband’s former wives, and in the result of her curiosity. Even the final scene of the story in which Marquise dies is an allusion to The Bluebeard by Perrault. Nevertheless, modernity also manifests itself in the story and shows how the stereotypes change over time. The role of a woman is larger in Carter’s story, which is observed in the narrator’s free decision to marry Marquise, and also in the fact that it is a woman, namely the girl’s mother, who brings her salvation from her fears and death danger. Nevertheless, curiosity is still condemned by the public as Carter reflects it, and this fact reflects the stable features of the human life.

Conclusion

To conclude, this paper has managed to examine and critically compare The Bluebeard by Perrault and The Bloody Chamber by Carter in order to see how morals and topics of fairy tales have changed over time. As a result, it is obvious that the social roles of the two sexes have shifted over the centuries, but the social attitude towards morals and privacy has remained the same. Too much curiosity is still condemned and punished in the society irrespective of the epoch depicted.

Works Cited

Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. Vintage Classics, 1998.

Fairy Tales. “What is a Fairy Tale?” Surlalunefairytales. 2009. Web.

Lang, Andrew, ed. “Bluebeard.” The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965.

Footnotes

  1. Fairy Tales. “What is a Fairy Tale?” Surlalunefairytales. Web.
  2. Lang, Andrew, ed. “Bluebeard.” The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965.
  3. Lang, Andrew, ed. “Bluebeard.” The Blue Fairy Book. New York: Dover, 1965.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. Vintage Classics, 1998.
  7. Ibid.
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