The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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Sister Anne and Jean-Yves

While Carter retells a great deal of the ‘Bluebeard’ plot almost exactly, the crucial character of Sister Anne is supressed and part of her role in the story is given instead to Jean-Yves, the piano-tuner. The importance of these two individuals, and the manner in which they correspond to one another is signalled by the fact that in both versions they are the only major characters to be named.
Anne is the older sister to the protagonist of ‘Bluebeard’ and – in the manner of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility – she is less impressionable and impulsive than her younger sister who makes the mistake of marrying Bluebeard (who has been courting both girls). She helps her sister by standing in a tower of Bluebeard’s castle and signalling to her brothers who arrive just in time to rescue her. The younger sister calls up to the elder four times in a stylised manner: ‘Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?’, and each time her words are a response to Bluebeard’s increasingly insistent demands that she come down from her room to meet her fate. On the fourth occasion Anne tells her that her brothers are hurrying to rescue her.

This trope survives in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, but although Jean-Yves is with the narrator during this scene, it is the latter who actually sees her mother riding to the rescue. Bluebeard’s ‘calls’ from below are reconfigured as three internal telephone calls from the Marquis to his wife. Jean-Yves’s role is to offer some comfort to the protagonist in her plight: he accompanies her to her fate and has – at least according to the Marquis – already fallen in love with her. The two eventually marry, so, in a sense, Jean-Yves represents the younger sister’s future husband introduced at the very end of ‘Bluebeard’.
Essentially, however, in spite of these partially analogous characters from the original story, Jean-Yves, the blind piano-tuner, is wholly Carter’s invention, and he is therefore of great importance. The reason for this is relatively obvious: he falls in love with the protagonist’s piano playing – her talent – and with her personality, not with her appearance. One of the overriding concerns of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is, as is often noted, the damaging ways in which men look at women, and the way, in turn, in which women can come to enjoy being looked at in a certain way by men. Jean-Ives, as a blind man, is physically incapable of the Marquis’s ‘male gaze’, something Carter emphasises from his first appearance, when the narrator mentions his ‘grey eyes that fixed upon me although they could not see me.’

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