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Under the Wolfs Skin “The wolf is carnivore incarnate and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of flesh then nothing else will do” quotes Angela Carter, in her reimagining of the classic fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood” in her short story “The Company of Wolves.
” The original tale by Charles Perrault served as a thinly veiled cautionary tale for young women to suppress their sexuality which comes in the form of the wolf, and submit to the servile situations, or else they come to a bad end.
In Carter’s version though, she turns the tale on its head and does the opposite; Angela Carter’s tory states that sexuality can neither be stigmatized nor evaded, as it is biological. She talks of how the women were taught to fear their sexuality, to run away from it as if the devil himself was pursuing behind.
“If you spy a naked man among the pines, you must run as if the Devil were after you. ” The image of a naked man (signifying sexual desire) is transposed on that of a raving beast who is to be eluded or escaped from.
The reference to the Devil too perhaps isn’t entirely unplanned. What better way to impose iron-clad chastity on women if not reminding them of the Devil in tandem with sexual desire, the ultimate forbidden fruit? However, as Carter puts it, “the wolves have ways of arriving at your own hearthside.
We try and we try but sometimes we cannot keep them out” and this is perhaps the best example of Carter’s allusion to the attempt at repressing human sexuality.
Like the wolves, she states, the desire ends up dogging at your heels, no matter how much a person might attempt to keep it out. This blatant attempt on the author’s part is an attempt at restructuring the roles of the women so that they are more than Just set in their gender roles which teaches them sexuality is to be reviled or feared; “sheltered” in ne form or another for centuries, out of which they are beginning to emerge. Thus, in “The Company of Wolves” the author uses the wolf as a metaphor for sexual desire as a tool of independence for women.
She uses the proverbial wolf as a sexual liberator to show the women embracing or attempting to embrace independence through sexuality by eschewing gender specific roles and by having them avow their independence by celebrating their sexuality without servility or shame. Carter uses the “wolf” as the sexual liberator by showing women who embrace or, attempt to mbrace their sexuality in a bid for independence from patriarchal society. In the first part of Carter’s story, the narrator speaks of a woman who was bitten in her own kitchen while straining the macaroni.
Previous to this anecdote, as well as after it, the story stays well ensconced in the past, separating the reader from it. This image of a woman straining macaroni however, manages to Jar the reader into the present day, in which it is the rare person who fears wolves (or, their sexuality). Rather, fears of rape, murder and robbery are in abundance. Yet we find that it is the woman, deeply nsconced in her social role as a woman, in this modern day and age who fall victim the kitchen, the very symbol of servile shackles that Carter reviles.
Thus, when she is bitten by the wolf, she is in accordance to the law of the lycanthropes transformed into a wolf herself. A wolf who we see is described as “The wolf is carnivore incarnate and he’s as cunning as he is ferocious; once he’s had a taste of flesh then nothing else will do. ” From the lines it can be inferred that wolf is an elemental, sexual creature that is beyond societal trappings of proprieties. When the “taste of flesh” trikes, nothing can hold it back.
In Christianity, the word “flesh” is used in English as a metaphor to describe sinful tendencies. A related turn of phrase identifies certain sins as “carnal” sins, from Latin caro, carnis, meaning “flesh” in the King James’s Bible; “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)” Therefore, it can be agreed that “taste of flesh” may mean sexual desire.
This very desire which liberates her from the role she had been well ensconced in, introducing to her to a rand new role of the aggressor in the form of the wolf who would spread desire through her “bite” rather than the meek, subservient female in the kitchen passively waiting for something. The wolf or, her desire introduces her to danger and passion, of walking outside the realm of sexual proprieties as decided upon by the society, instead of the mundane of routine like macaroni washing.
Through this woman Angela Carter shows women bound in servitude of one form or another, those confined to their limiting roles can be, and are attacked by the “wolf”, as if desire at rodding at them to break free, finally manages to make them do so, even after years of oppression at times. Thus, it can be understood this “wolf” can be the sexual liberator that can at least make women try and embrace independence through their sexuality. Another example of such an act of independence through a woman’s sexuality would be the tale of the witch.
The witch whose lover had spurned her for another woman turned an entire wedding party into wolves and “used to order them to visit her, at night, from spite, and they would sit and howl around her cottage for her, serenading her with their misery. The author again uses the word “wolf” as an allusion for sexuality. The witch, instead of succumbing to the set gender-sexual paradigm, where she is to revile her sexuality now that a man had chosen another woman over her, casts a “spell” instead.
She turns the wedding party into wolves – perhaps becomes the object of their desire using her feminine wiles, regardless of their sexual orientation and breaks out of the mold of playing untutored victim. Rather she entraps them sexually, willing them to come to her over and over again – allowing the character to depart from the usual gender role of a woman. Also, the author uses the metaphorical wolf of sexual desire to describe women who shun gender-specific roles and celebrate their independence through sexuality.
Therefore, in her story Angela Carter uses the “wolf” or the sexual desire to embody a change – the kind we see in the girl in the red hood. Through the wolf we see Angela Carter introducing a breed of women who revel in their sexuality without shame. The girl signifying Little Red Riding Hood is young -“she is a sealed vessel she is a closed system; she does not know how to shiver. ” (6) The girl therefore is spared of the ultural conditioning of shaming and shunning of the female sexuality and is therefore more open to change.
She comes across the huntsman and we immediately reach her grandmother’s cottage before her, which she accepts. Upon arrival, when she realizes that things weren’t the way they should be, we see that the girl shunning all that she was ever taught, “and, since her fear did her no good, she ceased to be afraid. ” He is the sum of all she had been taught to fear, and yet she gives him the kiss owed, and begins to take off her clothing and throw it into the fire, symbolically bandoning all she had ever been taught regarding repressing her sexuality.
When she comments on his teeth, and he reminds her that they are they are there to eat her with, we do not see him scream in fear like the original Red Riding Hood. She knows that she has nothing to fear, that “she knew she was nobodys meat. She laughed at him full in the face, she ripped off his shirt for him and flung it into the fire. ” It is here we see the powers shift; the girl embraces her sexuality within the wolf, instead of fearing it. We find her freely exercising her sexuality and desire as he sees fit. She relies solely on these for protection, and for salvation.
Looking at the story even in its most basic, we do not find her imploring to God or bowing down in servitude to a man. Rather, she embraces her own nature and, “see! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf. ” That not only saves her, but helps her discover herself as an equal, in bed with her desire rather than haunted by it, or shamed by it afterwards. The wolf therefore ends up signifying the young woman’s stepping out of her socio-cultural taboos such as ender-role, religion and morality, and the its role in her celebration of her sexuality, without guilt.
Of course, it can be argued that the wolf instead of a sexual liberator can instead be a commentary on the parallel between men and wolves. She portrays men as the “carnivore incarnate” repetitively and shows them as savage, lusty, rabid beings that are all “starving”. “Statements such as “once he’s had the taste of flesh, nothing else will do” and “worst of all he cannot listen to reason” are frightening in context and leave no room for question in this blatant link between the wild wolves nd the male sex. Thus, it can be argued that instead of the role of the sexual liberator, the wolf plays the role of a rabid, but manageable social construct; men who are only appeased by “immaculate flesh” yet, a girl could “lay his fearful head on her lap”. Here we can see, I suppose, where “postmodern feminism confronts the violence inherent in these narratives that construct and regulate gender and sexuality, exposing misleading totalities inherent in fairy tales, myths, and other such dominant narratives” (Brooke 18). Yet, despite the arguments raised, the role of the olf as a sexual liberator still stands strong.
Taking into account the cases of the woman bitten and thus, introduced to independence through her sexual desires, the witch who embraced her sexuality and independence, and even the young woman implementing her sexuality to proclaim her independence, is a stronger account of the wolf standing for a positive change. In Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” the wolf itself signifies feminine independence and deviation from patriarchal role through sexuality and the change is certainly a positive one and the arguments given more han meets the ones that can be raised against the set definition given.
To conclude, Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” is a feminist restructuring of an old moralistic tale warning women of their sexuality. She rewrites it so that instead of being haunted by the proverbial wolf of their sexuality here the females attempt to role and, to enjoy their sexuality without servility or shame. The wolf of desire isn’t something to be reviled, loathed or to run away from. Rather, like the young girl, Angela Carter wants women to embrace their liberation and take their destiny in their own hands.
She wants them to use the power of their sexuality without shame or fear and, like Red to survive the encounter with the savage wolf unscathed. Angela Carter wants women to welcome their independence with open arms and “The Company of Wolves” is her way of declaring the separation from cookie cutter gender roles of women as non-sexual beings driven by others’ decisions to sexually independent ones capable of making choices of their own. Work Cited Brooke, Patricia. “Lions and Tigers and Wolves – Oh My! Reversionary Fairy Tales in the Work of Angela Carter” Critical Survey. Berghahn Books. Jstor.
November 2013 http://www. Jstor. org/stable/41 55725 Carter, Angela. “The Company of Wolves”. The Bloody Chamber. Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1979. Litgothic. 20 November 2013 http:// www. litgothic. com/PDFOther/carter_company_wolves. pdf Film. In the Company of Wolves. April 18, 2005. 10 November 2013 The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769; King James Bible Online, 2008. 1 December 2013 http:// www. king]amesbibleonline. org/. Perrault, Charles. “Little Red Riding Hood” “Tales from Perraul” 1697. Pitt. 15 November 2013. http://www. pitt. edu/?”dash/ type0333. html#perrault