Compare the ways in which Carter combines the fairy tale and the Gothic in ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’ and ‘The Tiger’s Bride’
Below are some suggestions for what your essay might contain. However these are not prescriptive, feel free to develop your own response as much as possible. You could:
Compare the openings of each story – you might explore the Winter setting and the use of snow as a symbol – how does the opening differ in feel and tone in each story? You may feel the first story seems much more romantic and fairy tale like whereas the second seems much harsher in tone. Compare the character of Beauty in each story. Does she fit the Gothic female stereotype of a victim? To what extent is she objectified? Look at the change of narrative from 3rd and 1st person- why do you think Carter makes this change and what does is add to our view of Beauty? How does the father figure compare in each story – does Carter change Gothic or fairy tale conventions through this character? The setting of the Beast’s home. Compare and contrast each setting –inside and out. Does either seem like a fairy tale castle or fit the isolated castle of the Gothic? Carter often gives her settings a greater symbolism – what is symbolic in either setting? Compare the supernatural character – the Beast - in each story, and the way Beauty feels about him. Does she feel scared by him in either story? What aspects of his character does she notice? Compare and contrast the storyline of each story? Are there any differences in the events which take place? You might explore the card game, the use of gifts, the automaton and the horse ride in the second story. Compare the endings of both stories – in particular the way that in the first, the Beast becomes a man and in the second, Beauty becomes a Beast. Discuss in detail these differences and the ways Carter changes the fairy tale and subverts the Gothic. Which ending do you prefer and why? What do you think is the theme of each story? How does Carter subvert the fairy tale in the second story? You may feel the second story has more of a happy ending than the first; what is Carter trying to say here? What aspect of human ‘civilised’ society and its treatment of women does she explore? The idea of human/animal transformation is often used in Gothic stories – is it used in the same way here? Do either of the stories make use of typical Gothic symbols? You might look at the use of masks, the rose, jewels, mirrors, animals, colour …
In the exam you will have one hour to answer a question like this and you will have to write without your book. However, for this practice, I would use your book and spend a little longer.
Other Critical Viewpoints
Beauty ponders the ‘different logic’ by which the Beast and his companion live. Carter thus, here as elsewhere, openly acknowledges the ‘differentness’ of this world which she has created. As a reader we therefore should not bring our normal sensibilities to bear upon this tale. She wants us to approach the tales with a mind uncluttered by established thoughts or prejudices. The reference to Eve reminds us of a prejudice established by the creation story and perpetuated since by the major religions, one effect of which has been female subservience. Eve’s original sin, as in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, is linked to women’s frailty in general. The Tiger’s desire to see Beauty naked should not be seen as some unpleasant voyeurism, but simply to see her as she really is, as opposed to how she is dressed and ‘constructed’ by society. The Tiger precipitates this by taking the lead. The wind which always seems to announce his presence is an elemental force indicating his power; potentially destructive, but essential to life. The reciprocal nature of their undressing suggests how power and delicacy, desire and beauty, man and woman can coexist. In Carter’s version it is not the lion which lies down with the lamb, but the lamb which must ‘learn to run with the...
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