Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Angela Carter said that all writing is political. She was a feminist but refused to confine her dazzling imagination and corrosive intellect to any ideological category. Her work dissects the thought patterns and social and political institutions that limit and warp the lives of women and other marginalized people. She exposes the mechanisms by which supposedly free societies shackle people’s minds, showing readers the gears and levers of control, potentially transforming the way they see the world, just as the narrator in “Flesh and the Mirror” comes to see her lover, herself, and the city through transformed eyes.

Carter said that living in Japan radicalized her and taught her to be a woman. In the 1960’s she established herself as one of the most promising young writers in England, but then she won the W. Somerset Maugham Award and used the prize money to go to Japan, partly to flee a disintegrating marriage. Carter lived at first with a Japanese lover and later alone. She remained in Japan from 1969 to 1972 and, while there, wrote “Flesh and the Mirror.”

Carter’s friend, novelist Salman Rushdie, has said the dark eroticism of Japan challenged Carter and deflected her writing into an exploration of female sexuality. Carter said her writing project was to investigate the social fictions that regulate people’s lives. The foreignness of the Japanese culture helped her understand how people, including women, are the products of...

(The entire section is 524 words.)