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The Company of Wolves Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 July 2017

The Company of Wolves

Symbolism is prevalent in both of the short stories, in “The Company of Wolves” when the Wolf offers to carry Red Riding Hood’s basket, she is slightly reluctant “her knife was in it” however he insists that his ” rifle” will protect them. All the weapons that are mentioned are phallic and appear symbolic of the destructive and violent nature of men and masculinity.

In fact there is conflict of phallic symbols, when the wolf offers to carry her basket; she gives it to him although her knife (a phallic symbol) is in her basket a vaginal symbol however in the end the rifle another phallic symbol, wins over. The masculine pride of this man is reinforced when he described as having “a remarkable object in his pocket” The object being a compass, he tries to tempt her “off the path”, when she does indeed stray from the path it is into sex and temptation.

Throughout the story much emphasis is placed on the colour red and indeed what it represents, The eyes of the wolf are described as “reddish” a figure of speech is used “red for danger” Little Red Riding Hood’s shawl is red and has “the ominous brilliant look of blood on snow” We are informed that she “has just started her woman’s bleeding” The wolf is described as having a “faint trace of blood on his chin”, When Little Red Riding Hood arrives at the house her shawl is “as red as the blood she is just about to spill” At this point is may be construed that she is about to kill the “beast” The colour red is important in this story on many levels, it represents sexual passion and desire, danger and destruction and purity and vitality.

“She saw how his jaw began to slaver and the room was full of the clamour of the forest’s Liebestod”, Liebestod is the German concept of the unity of love and death, throughout the story love and passion are put adjacent to death and danger. This is demonstrated clearly by Little Red Riding Hood’s sexual encounter with the wolf, “she will lay his fearful head on her lap, a phallic symbol, and she will pick out the lice from his pelt and perhaps she will put the lice into her own mouth and eat them, as he will bid her”, This represents women’s worship of men in society. Despite her grandmother’s death at the hands of the wolf Little Red Riding Hood is still content on continuing with the wolf. In the story of “Eveline” there is symbolism although in this story the symbolism is not as obvious as it appears in “The Company of Wolves”.

In “Eveline” we are told “her head leaned against the window and curtains” here the closed curtains, symbolises the manner in which Eveline has been held back from her desires aspirations even freedom whether physical or the ability to think freely and openly. Religious dogma also plays a part in the story “a yellowing photograph” of a priest appears to not only be an attack by Joyce on the decay and failure of the Church at this time, but a suggestion that Eveline has not tended to her faith. Bound by cultural pressure yet freed through the power of her mind, she finds herself in a state of numbness where existence almost holds no meaning to her.

“She inhales the odour of dusty cretonne” and ponders about dust, and these stale destructive images symbolise death. Eveline’s comfort in the presence of object’s symbolising death shows that she finds solace in the perpetual and the known, even if it means death. This comfort leads to a state of paralysis, where it appears that she is slowly dying, until the final passage where she appears to complete the passage to death. In addition to this imagery symbolic of obligation that fills the house, she thinks of the “coloured print of the promises made to blessed Margaret Alacoque” which refers to a French nun who was associated with the concept of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Eveline is bound by a perceived obligation to her family that was requested by her mother, so in a way it would be hard to blame Eveline for not leaving as she is respecting the wishes of her dead mother. These ties to Dublin and its people hold her back. Throughout the story Eveline is motionless silent and “tired” At the end of the story she “set her white face to him (Frank), passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition. ” There is a layer of irony here; “the black mass of the boat” with its dark colours may be symbolic of the journey to death. However, by staying in Dublin Eveline’s inert, colourless face is like that of a ghost, and she has condemned herself to death.

It is apparent that Joyce has set the scene with images of death making a point about the sheer futility of life in Dublin, and a suggestion that there is in fact no escape. With regard to this particular story it Joyce’s intention may be more obvious if the collection of stories to which this belongs “The Dubliners” were also considered. The Story of “Eveline” only forms part of an overall criticism of Dublin at that time. This particular story aims to present the failures in the structures of Dublin that lead to a paralysed life. Within the story “The Company of Wolves” the question of gender is recurrent. The werewolf is seen as virility and male sexuality.

Although the metaphors within the story swing widely the wolf is seen as a symbol for selfish human nature emerging through guilt and hypocrisy. Towards the end of the story there is reconciliation between male and female sexuality “The blizzard will die down” here again Carter is highlighting the stereotype of women civilizing and soothing men with their uncontrollable desires. The first line emphasises the ongoing question of man “One beast and only one howls in the woods by night. ” This begs the question whether it is a wolf or a man or is it both. There is much ambiguity between men and wolves, the wolves are referred to as “beasts” and are described as loving to be “less beastly if only they knew how”.

The portrayal of men as beasts within the narrative is typified in the tales at the beginning, “There was once a woman once bitten in her own kitchen as she was straining the macaroni”, these are domestic scene used to further blur the lines between surreal fairytale and everyday life and to shock when the scene is disturbed. The masculine spirit is suggested when violence and destruction erupts when her husband returns years after his mysterious disappearance on their wedding night. This criticises men as the first thing he husband says is “Get me a bowl of cabbage and be quick about it” which shows the little respect he has for her. When he realises she has another man to whom she now has children he wishes he were a wolf again to teach her a lesson.

Here Carter is highlighting the absurdity of the first husband coming to reclaim his “meat” Moreover, she is satirising the idealisation of women and makes the point of how some men categorise women as either “Virgins” or “Whores” this tagging is ironic since this woman referred to as a whore was a “worthy” wife not so long ago. Here and as the story develops with the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” Carter is drawing attention to the brutality and animalistic nature of men therefore the line between beast and man is further blurred which appears to be Carter’s intention. It appears the she intended to show clearly the stereotypes present in society with regard to male and females there place and their sexuality Women are initially represented as victims of passive male aggression however this is turned about when the vivid images of a young beautiful innocent girl takes control and decides her own fate.

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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 10 July 2017

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