Delicious, eccentric, opulent, cruel corrupt: all of these adjectives appear in the story ‘The Bloody Chamber’, which do you find helpful in describing Angela Carter’s style? In the order of the above title the words valorously mean; “appealing to the senses”. “Deviating from convention in bizarre manner”, “abundant and plentiful”, “causing pain without pity”, “morally deprived and lacking integrity”. It would be fair to say that all the above words are helpful in describing Angela Carter’s style but in varying degrees. The very nature of the stories themselves are cruel ass indeed they were in their original form so it is not totally accurate to say this is her own style exactly.
However, there are flashes of pure cruelty, non-essential to the plot. For instance in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ the count bans his new wife from entering his ‘den’ but adds cruelly “There I can go you understand, to savour the rare pleasure of imagining myself wife less”. It is cruel to say this to a new wife and subtly cruel also as we learn the secret of the chamber. In the same story we hear of the Marquis who used to hunt young girls to kill them who boasts of his conquest to the blacksmith, pulling out of a bag a head to show off “A find specimen of the genus brunette, eh, Guillaume?” It was the head of the blacksmith’s wife. Both incidents are little ‘titbits’ of pure cruelty.
Opulent is probably not an adjective you would expect of these quite violent tales, but the sense of opulence is seems to add to the pathos of the stories. In ‘The Bloody Chamber’ we are shown the Count’s wealth “I drew my furs about me… broad stripes errene and sable”. It illustrates that wealth is no protector from death and the dead animals around her neck although opulent could be seen to symbolise her own death.
He also tells of his great portrait collection of Gangues, Poussins, Fragonares etc (all of victims incidentally) and he tells of his “Kings of Sevres and queens ransom of himoques.” The description of his wealth is most detailed and certainly opulent. Carter also uses opulence in a non-materialistic sense. In ‘The Lady of the House of Love’ She uses opulence of nature. “Too many roses, too many roses bloomed on enormous thickets… and the flowers themselves were almost too luxuriant.
Delicious ties in quite well with opulent as something enjoyable and appealing to the senses and as such features a lot in the story, ‘The Bloody Chamber’. “Funeral lilies whose white sheaths are curled out of a flesh as thick yielding to the touch as vellum”. It is a deliciously sensual description using the senses of touch. Later in the same story she appeals to the sense of taste giving a vivid description of a meal. “An aromatic soup … a cold bird, a cold souffl, cheese” all temptingly delicious sounding. She continues to tempt the senses with a visual feast of the Russia they knew “Black earth, blue forest… white nights of cool summer, the fireworks of the northern lights”. She brings smell into the range also, “The thick, rich wild scent… hangs all about us.”.
This leaves us with eccentric and corrupt. Throughout the whole book, there are flashes of eccentric behaviour. In the first story, the heroine’s mother, having previously despatched a man-eating tiger kills her daughter’s husband. In Mr Lyon we are treated to a King Charles spaniel taking the part of a manservant. Continuing into the Tigers Bride the maid is automation. In The werewolf a small child maims the wolf and calmly cleans her knife and walks on.
This brings is finally to ‘corrupt’ which in my opinion is the most appropriate of all the adjectives and the most widely used in the book. Not only does Angela Carter use corrupt passages, each and every tale is corrupt in some way of form. They are all stories based round moral depravity and lacking in integrity. The lady of the house of love embodies corruption. The them of the tale of a vampire killing for blood is a corruption of life itself and the story is full of further images.
“She is too beautiful she is unnatural… her beauty is a symptom of her disorder, her soulessness… she rises when the sun sets”. Shortly after this she uses the word herself “a blast of rich, faintly corrupt sweetness strong enough almost to fell him… plush petals somehow obscene in their excess… tightly budded cores outrageous in implications” with this paragraph. Carter demonstrates that it is not only humanity that can be corrupt? She emphasises this with one feeding off the other. “Tomorrow, her keeper will buy his bones under her roses. The food her roses feed on gives them their rich colour, their smoothing colour, that breathes lasciviously of forbidden pleasures.” Man and nature corrupting each other.
The story of ‘The Bloody Chamber’ shows corruption at its best, indeed the count himself is a descendent of Catherine de Medici one of history’s most corrupt, amoral characters. The twist to corruption in this tales is that the heroin as we perceive her to be is fallible enough to sense it in herself. ” I sensed in myself a potentially for corruption that took my breath away”. The count catches his young innocent wife reading through his erotic books and taunts her with the words “My little nun has found the prayer books has she?”.
He alludes to what must be the ultimate corruption – that of a bride of Christ. He tells his bride that he has bought her with “Coloured stones and the pelts of dead beasts”. Who is the most corrupt? The giver or the taker? The final depravity he wishes to inflict upon her is baldly stating to her the form of her impending death “decapitation” he wants her to bathe and dress and be jewel herself for her execution, the behaviour of a totally corrupt individual. Angela Carter sees the world as a corrupt place peopled by corrupters with nature lending more that a helping hand. The line that sums this up perfectly comes from the ‘Company of Wolves’ “She knew the worst wolves are hairy on the inside.”