The Presentation of Sexuality in The Bloody Chamber and Literature

Categories: The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter illustrates and utilises distinct characters to reflect on the sexuality which was present during the time in which 'The Bloody Chamber' was set in 1697. Many of Carter's male characters were used to explore the vast sexuality presented in many Gothic literatures at that time. They had evidence of male chauvinistic characteristics, in which along came a heteronormative personality too. Such characteristics are presented through the Marquis in 'The Bloody Chamber' and the wolves in both 'The Company of Wolves' and 'The Werewolf'.

A dominant character such as the Marquis can also portray a different aspect of sexuality for women, it results in many female figures losing their innocence through sexual discovery.

Female sexuality drives the majority of the Gothic stories, it is utilised as a weapon for wickedness. As Eve is blamed for tempting Adam into eating the apple, it is expressed through Carters writing that women whom portray sexuality are responsible in the majority of Gothic literatures for driving evil/gothic characters in the stories.

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This can be portrayed in 'The Bloody Chamber' through "I felt no fear, no intimidation of dread" the girl is speaking in regards about the 'Bloody Chamber' which portrays that she knows the Marquis has told her not to enter. Despite her instructions to not enter, she expresses to the readers that she feels no fear to do what she knows she is not allowed to do and so this leads into the evil and Gothic themes in which drive the horror of the story.

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Just as Eve was punished due to her temptation to eat the apple, the girl in 'The Bloody Chamber' is punished too by the Marquis by having an imprint on her forehead of blood in which "no paint nor powder, no matter how thick or white, can mask that red mark on my forehead". This idea of female sexuality driving the majority of the Gothic, can be identified in Carters story of 'The Werewolf' in which again, the girl is not afraid to carry out acts on a figure which is known to be stronger and more dominant than her. This is portrayed through "she made a great swipe at it with her father's knife" through which the girl cut of the animal's paw. During the time of 1697, most people especially females would be terrified to approach a wolf let alone fight one. The fact that the girl in this story has attacked something of greater power than her, reflects on the sexuality in which are associated with female characters being less strong and needing a man by their side, which is reflected through "her fathers knife". The fact that in both stories the females fight and are not afraid to be alone reflects on Carters presentation of Sexuality, as in most fairy tales and the majority of Gothic stories, a male figure would be expected to save a woman. As Robin Ann Sheets stated "The wife survives to tell the story of her moral development-unlike the women in the illustrations she is not trapped in visual representation". This reflects that Carter has gone beyond the norm of gothic literature and reflected on her own opinions of female sexuality.

Sexuality is a highly evident theme in such fairy tales as 'Little Red Riding Hood'. Critics have found that reading into the story, the famous wolf is portrayed as some kind of rapist. Angela Carter cleverly expands on the famous fairy tales through her stories of 'The Company of Wolves' and 'The Werewolf'. In 'The Company of Wolves' the transformation when her husband changes from a man to a wolf and saying "I wish I were a wolf again, to teach this whore a lesson!" on the wedding night is a connotation between the loss of one's virginity and the changes between a man and a werewolf. It is expressed that her husband had evidence of a 'wolf-like' behaviour as he ran away and no body could find him, again on their wedding night. This suggests that she is in fact not better of with her second husband either as he too has characteristics of a wolf as he "beat her". The two husbands link back to the title "The Company of Wolves" as they are making a statement that a woman cannot be happy alone Carter has gone against this statement as she shows the consequences of being with a man just for the sake of not being alone. Furthermore, her sexual desire can be presented through her body language and her characteristics such as her "red shawl" is much like the red cape in "Little Red Riding hood" and portrays a "look of blood on snow" in which is a connotation of her movement into adult hood and becoming a women as the colour red and the "look of blood on snow" is reference to and symbolises the blood from her menstrual cycle as well as the blood in which she will shed when her virginity is lost.

Throughout all three stories from the collection, 'The Bloody Chamber', 'The Company of Wolves' and 'The Werewolf' are all driven at the start by a male gaze and by a dominant figure. The characters feel the need to conform into what they are told to do. Towards the end the characters reflect changes in their personality traits and illustrate more rebellious characteristics against the so called 'dominant figure'. Throughout the stories there are various links to sexual connotations in regards to dominance. The 'Bloody Chamber' evidently explores sexual connotations in regards to dominance as the Marquis himself is very dominant towards the girl when it comes to reach his sexual desires. This can be portrayed through "my dear one, my little love, my child, did it hurt her?" this quote portrays a paedophilic theme and the Marquis can be expressed as having the characteristics of a rapist as he knows that 'it hurt her'. The characteristics of a rapist can also evidently be seen in 'The Company of Wolves' as the wolf in which the girl does not know personally, and has only known for not long requests "a kiss" if the wolf beats the girl to her grand-mothers house. Angela Carter has acted upon the girl's sexuality as despite their sexual identity, they still manage to find the courage to fight back; which thus is very unusual in such gothic literatures. This can be portrayed through "she raised my fathers gun, took aim and put a single, irreproachable bullet through my husband's head" the mother of the bride has killed her husband. The use of "my fathers gun" illustrates on society at the time in which this story was set in 1697 as the majority would expect a male figure to be the saver, not a female. This point can be explored in 'The werewolf' story in which the girl fights a wolf of greater power and strength than her. Here again Carter has reflected on the sexual identity of females and the historical facts in which people thought females to be less strong and need a male figure to save them. This is portrayed as the girl uses her fathers knife to fight of the animal "she made a great swipe at it with her fathers knife" the use of "fathers knife" juxtaposes what was expected at the time of 1679 as even in the story of "little red riding hood" in which the wolf stories are based upon, the woodcutter, a man, is the one whom saves the girl and her grandmother. As Robin Anne Sheets stated "Carters narrator is not using language in order to provide a sexual entertainment for the male readers, but in fact Roland Barthes would see the protagonist control of languages as evidence of a shift in power".

Overall to conclude, sexuality is portrayed in the collection of "The Bloody Chamber" as especially females experienced a dramatic change in their power from beginning to end. Sexuality is also explored as being very sexist during the time in which Angela Carter wrote as males where seen to be the dominant figures especially during sexual interactions.

Updated: Feb 26, 2024
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The Presentation of Sexuality in The Bloody Chamber and Literature. (2024, Feb 26). Retrieved from

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