The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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Of Keys and Curiosity

The trope of the keys to the castle and the moralistic reading of the story as a warning against curiosity are both elements found in Perrault’s story: indeed he ends his tale with a moralistic poem which begins (in a standard English translation): ‘O curiosity, thou mortal bane!’ There is a certain absurdity about taking the Bluebeard story as a warning against curiosity, given that the female protagonist of that tale would hardly have been better off had she not discovered her husband’s secret: she would still have been married to a serial killer, and in fact it is precisely her discovery of the chamber that leads to her rescue and Bluebeard’s just demise.

This aspect of the original story, however, does provide an interesting minor theme for Carter, as she addresses the belief found in some folktales and mythological sources that female curiosity inevitably brings disaster – sometimes on a cosmic level. The most famous examples of this (apart from the Bluebeard story itself) are referenced in the text: an imaginary work by the occultist Eliphas Levi titled ‘The Secrets of Pandora’s Box’ is later recalled by the protagonist:

The secret of Pandora's box; but he had given me the box, himself, knowing I must learn the secret. I had played a game in which every move was governed by a destiny as oppressive and omnipotent as himself, since that destiny was himself; and I had lost.

The Adventures of Eulalie at the Harem of the Grand Turk is captioned ‘Reproof of curiosity’.

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