‘The role of women in the gothic genre is as victims always subjected to male authority’, compare and contrast to which this interpretation is relevant to your three chosen texts. By Kristina Addis
Within My Last Duchess, The Bloody Chamber and Dracula, there is evidence to suggest that women within the gothic genre as portrayed as victims of male authority, as well as evidence to disprove this argument, instead suggesting that it is the women within the Gothic genre which makes themselves victims. ‘Angela Carter is particularly interested in the portrayal of women as victims of male aggression as a limiting factor in the feminist perspective of the time’[i] Carter, with her modern twist on traditional fairytales places a particular focus on women characters and the hardships they endure perhaps due to their own natural behaviour, whereas Stoker with his tale of vampires is more traditional with the female becoming victims, through his male authority. My last Duchess enhances this by showing how women in the gothic genre are victims of male authority, through her suspicious death and the duke’s obsession with her beauty. Angela Carter’s, The Bloody Chamber,’ when read as a young women’s initiatory quest for knowledge rather than as the story of an overly curious girl who makes a disastrous marriage, provides its readership with a women-centred perspective that both reflects and allows for social change through individual liminal experience’[ii]. The Bloody chamber takes different forms throughout the book, but continues to serve the same symbolic purpose; it is a place of transformation for the heroine that changed irrevocably. Each of these chambers is connected with violence and the blood shed when a woman looses her virginity and when she menstruates. Carter uses the chamber to make the connection between women’s sexuality, and the violence that they experience. This brings up the question of whether it is the men who make the women victims or whether it’s a woman’s natural body and mind which makes them victims. After all it is the women who carry the children and are naturally more delicate, so perhaps it’s not the men who make them victims in the gothic genre but the women themselves. It is the time in which Carter writes which allows her to separate the bloody chamber from stereotypes, as it is a modern poem and therefore she is able to empower the women. In The Bloody Chamber, the chamber is marquis’ room of torture and death. First, ‘the Marquis mentions the custom, no longer followed in what he rather smugly calls ‘these civilised times’ of hanging the bloody bridal sheets out of the window to prove the bride’s virginity’ [iii].The heroine finds the chamber and puts herself in danger by doing so, she is an innocent girl who knows nothing of the world. ‘The bride appears to be a blank page; she was, she says, a mere seventeen, a girl who know nothing of the world when she married’[iv] The effect of finding the room gives the audience a thrill of the unknown, as well as suspense of whether she will be liberated or if this knowledge will lead to her doom, She later calls herself ‘only a baby when her husband entrusts her with his keys’[v] . Therefore it could be argued that it is the women who put themselves in the situation of being the victim, because of their natural traits such as innocence, curiosity and fragility, rather than the men in the Victorian era making them victims. This can also be seen in Stoker’s Dracula, it is the natural behaviour of the women in the Victorian era, and it is their innocence which ultimately leads the women into the hands of Dracula. These traits include the women’s beauty and the innocence of life, rather than the male authority putting them there. In The Bloody Chamber, she realises Marquis’ obsessive objectification through her loss of virginity. She describes it as painful experience and refers to it as a ‘one sided struggle’[vi] this shows how it is...
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