violently sexual

September 30, 2017

Sunday entertainment 3

Sex isn’t a subtext in “The Bloody Chamber,” but the text itself. (Angela Carter would explain that she was only making explicit a “latent content” that is “violently sexual.”) The title story is a version of “Bluebeard” in which a fin de siècle ingénue, the churchmouse-poor daughter of a widowed music teacher, weds an older, thrice-married marquis who is “the richest man in France.” He sweeps her off to his ancestral manse, where she gets a suite in a tower and where her curious wanderings unearth his collection of kinky books. Then he departs on a suspiciously timed business trip, leaving her with a ring of keys and permission to visit every room, except one.

Eroticism hangs heavy in the air here, as it does in much of “The Bloody Chamber,” like an expensive, drugging perfume. There is something vampiric about the marquis’ perversity, and about his “white, heavy flesh,” which the narrator repeated compares to lilies. Yet she is aroused to see him watching her in a mirror “with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh.” She believes he can see into her soul, perceiving “a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.” It’s not so much his power that entraps her, as her own longing for surrender.

Laura Miller
Fairy tales, fantasy and dangerous female desire

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