Fairytales: Archetypes for Social Progression

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Paragraph For Angela Carter
By A.D.
The original didactic purpose of fairytales is ever-present and self-modifying to fit the paradigmatic shifts of its context. Contemporaries like Angela Carter, reinforcing or challenging societal values or constructs, subvert fairytale archetypes to educate on social progression; through literary discourses such as post-modernism and feminism. In Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’ (1979) the blurring of the wolf or hunter archetype exemplifies the modernisation of the classic fairytale, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. Carter subverts traditional and polarising notions of good versus evil with personification in the line ‘that long, drawn out, wavering howl has, for all its fearful resonance, some inherent sadness’. The accumulation inspires compassion as the wolf is given human qualities, challenging the distinction of traditional archetypes with their merging. Thus asserting post-modern concepts of subversion and educating the contextual audience to the multi faceted character, fulfilling the didactic purpose of this modern fairytale. Angela Carter’s writing was influenced by paradigmatic shifts of late twentieth century England with new wave feminism and notions of female empowerment, demonstrated in the line ‘she has a knife and she is afraid of nothing’. The knife is a symbol of independance for this young lady, as weapons are typically for the archetypal male protector. She is empowered by social paradigms relative to Carter’s context, of violence and arrogance in youth. Budding sexuality is another prevalent focus of Carter’s manifestation that reflects her changing social paradigms. The accumulation of the striptease, ‘off came her skirt, her woolen stockings, her shoes, and on to the fire they went’, evidently signifies her matured and controlled move toward expressing her own sexuality. Therefore subverting the archetype of a virginal “damsel in distress” to an actively sexual heroine, making the act of sex no longer a...
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