A main theme through a lot of the stories in The Bloody Chamber Collection by Angela Carter is competition between the sexes and how women were treated by men in her society; a theme which is still relevant today. However, a few of the stories in the collection explore how women were viewed and treated by other women in society – I believe the competition between females is more relevant to today’s society than the competition between the sexes. I am going to look at how Carter explores the female experience in society using The Company of Wolves, The Snow Child and The Werewolf. I am going to explore the fact that Carter uses these particular tales to explain that women should not be fighting with each other, but should be banding together against the common enemy; men. There are many reasons why females could be in competition with each other in today’s society – it could be because two women want the same man, it could be because some women are very wealthy and powerful with good jobs whereas some others are not, or it could be because some women are jealous because others are particularly good looking or younger than them – one woman wants what the other has.
In The Snow Child, Carter explores the idea of one woman wanting what the other has – in this case, a man’s affection: She was the child of his desires and the countess hated her. Whilst logic dictates that the countess should want to be rid of the count as he does not think she is good enough for him, she only thinks how shall I be rid of her? This suggests she is thinking that if she can get rid of the girl the count believes is better than the countess then the count will once again desire her, whereas in actual fact, he would really only mourn the loss of the girl he so desired. I think that in this tale, Carter uses pathetic fallacy to symbolise how cold and unyielding the countess is: MIDWINTER – INVINCIBLE, IMMACULATE. I think that Carter is trying to make a point that only hateful people would wish harm on another simply because that individual possesses something the person wants. She could also be making a point that, like winter, the countess’ days are numbered and that her coldness will eventually mean the death of her.
I believe this tale shows how competition between women is counter-productive as every time the countess tried to lose the girl, she would be punished with the loss of an item of clothing and the girl, who I perceive to be completely innocent, would be rewarded by gaining the clothing. She is saying that women should be banding together against the common enemy, men. Carter repeats the idea of jealousy in The Werewolf, this time with the older grandmother being jealous of her young granddaughter and actively trying to kill her. Whilst in the last tale, the countess hated the girl, I do not think that she actually wanted the girl dead – she just wanted her to no longer be a problem. The fate of the grandmother in this story is the same as the countess; she dies. However in The Snow Child, the girl died first so the countess got some satisfaction, in this story the girl lives on and lives in the grandmother’s house: now the child lived in her grandmother’s house; she prospered. I think this means that the more passionately women fight among themselves, the worse the consequences will be.
This is why the child in this tale, who simply let the townspeople kill her grandmother, and did not actively contribute, lived happily ever after. I think a part of the message with this story was that the young girl should know how to defend herself, but did not expect that she may need to defend herself from another woman, particularly a blood relation. I think Carter is also saying that if you are a girl or a woman in society, you cannot trust any other women because women are cunning, as are wolves. The only speech used in this tale is when the child: cried out so loud the neighbours heard her. This suggests that the only emotion that girl felt towards her grandmother when she realised she had cut off the grandmother’s hand was fear. She did not pity her grandmother and she was not sorry for what she had done. Therefore, maybe the child in this story is not as innocent as the girl in The Snow Child, but she deserved a second chance at life because she was young, so Carter did not end the tale with the girl and the grandmother dying together.
The grandmother should have known better than to be jealous of the girl as she is supposed to be old and wise. She should also be able to restrain herself from attacking her young granddaughter as she should have more self control and be able to realise that it would be unbeneficial to her to attack another woman. In The Company of Wolves, the competition between the women is not as explicit as in the other tales, but is still implied. The competition stems from the fact that the women simply do not understand each other and do not hold the same values as each other. The grandmother in this tale is a character that the reader can take pity on as she did not do anything wrong other than relying on religion to save her rather than using her head. The girl in this tale is a character a lot of readers could relate to even though she is perhaps a little unorthodox. I think it is interesting that Carter tells us the girl expressed sadness at hearing the howling of the wolves when it is cold outside but the only thought she seemed to have upon learning her grandmother was dead was for her own safety: No trace of the old woman at all except for a tuft of white hair… she knew she was in danger of death.
The girl does not seem to care for her grandmother at all and she appears to trust the strange man more than her grandmother, which is not what we would expect from a young girl. Carter does not give a lot of detail about the grandmother except for on short paragraph in which the grandmother is only referred to as ‘she’: She has her Bible for company, she is a pious old woman. She is propped up… We also get no description of her death; this could lead us to believe that the grandmother is not too important to this story and is not acknowledged. This could mirror the fact that she is not needed or noticed by her granddaughter who would rather be in the stranger’s arms than with her grandmother: See! sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf. We can see that the girl is very different and has a different mind-set from her grandmother in that she thinks for herself and is capable of protecting herself: She has her knife and is afraid of nothing. The child and the grandmother would not have the same opinions of sex or of religion.
When the girl begins to give in to her desires and to the wolf the old bones under the bed set up a terrible clattering, which we as the reader can assume is a warning from the grandmother for the girl not to go through with this, but the girl disregards the sound of her grandmother and follows her own desires irrespectively. I think these tales in The Bloody Chamber collection are conveying the message that even though females should be wary of the male predators that are usually portrayed as the evil characters, they should also be wary of each other. The tales also represent the fact that they should band together against the males rather than turning on each other.