The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

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She provides an obvious role model in the story, but there is also something left to be learned of the Marquis. He does not have any hope: there is no possible outcome but his death, so low has he sunk. He must be put down, like the ‘man-eating tiger’ he has become. But it is important to note his, at least partial, realisation of this. His words at one or two points in the story serve as a warning to any man tempted to objectify women. What began as a harmless enough infatuation with a beautiful opera singer has ended in torment: ‘a stench of absolute despair’; ‘The atrocious loneliness of that monster’; ‘“you’ll never know how much I hate daylight!”’ as he says.

The point here is that the discovery of the Bloody Chamber has entrapped both the protagonist and the Marquis. He can no longer stop himself living out his fantasy, however much his better nature may want him to abandon it; indeed it has grown upon him to a degree of diabolical excess, so that he talks of ‘a dozen brides’ to follow the narrator. He has lost his humanity (like later characters such as the Duke in ‘Wolf-Alice’), so that his ability to act independently is gone: he becomes finally little more than a mechanical puppet: ‘the sword still raised over his head as in those clockwork tableaux of Bluebeard that you see in glass cases at fairs.’
It is entirely just to see him, under such circumstances, killed by a bullet through the head, and the story leaves the reader with a new moral – or at least a new suggestion: that patriarchal control, exercised both through the male gaze and through the power of wealth is, finally, to the detriment of both men and women.

Glossary

‘wagon-lit’ – a sleeper car.

‘black silk’ – the dress the Marquis buys for the protagonist’s mother foreshadows his intention to kill her daughter and thus make her wear black in mourning.

‘Indo-China’ – Vietnam; originally a French colony.

‘Conservatoire’ – World-famous school of music in Paris.

‘a Debussy prelude’ – One of twenty-four solo piano pieces published in two volumes between 1909 and 1913. A number of audio selections can be found here. The pieces are generally considered Romantic and impressionistic in character: one interesting aspect is that they do not use regular key signatures, and this may connect with the narrator’s period of infatuation with the Marquis (whose piano, interestingly, is out of key). Once she has learned the truth about him, she turns to the more ‘reasoned’ music of Bach.

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