“Gothic literature is fascinated with monsters and monstrous figures.” Consider the significance of this statement in the light of two or three of Angela Carter’s stories.
Angela Carter’s Gothic-inspired short story collection The Bloody Chamber is a work that illustrates Carter’s fascination with monsters, monstrous figures, and, more specifically, monstrous women. Carter casts many of the women in her stories as marginalized, ghastly women with horrific features. This is especially interesting in part because she utilizes Gothic tropes to tell her stories, and also because the women in Carter’s stories reflect the liminal position women hold in patriarchal discourse. A striking instance of a monstrous woman occurs early in the collection with “The Tiger’s Bride.” A young woman’s father gambles her away to a mysterious being merely known as The Beast. By the end of the story, however, the young woman embraces the monstrous being that has been lurking within her all along. In a Gothic twist, the woman only becomes fulfilled after she has accepted her status as a monster:
“And each stroke of his tongue ripped off skin after successive skin, all the skins of a life in the world, and left behind a nascent patina of shining hairs. My earrings turned back to water and trickled down my shoulders; I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur” (67).
Another interesting case of a woman acting as a monster is in “The Lady of the House of Love.” The sensual female vampire is condemned to a life of loneliness, occupying an obviously Gothic castle like a wispy Poe heroine. She inhabits a liminal space between living and dead, animal and human:
“She herself is a haunted house. She does not possess herself; her ancestors sometimes come and peer out of the windows of her eyes and that is very frightening. She has the mysterious solitude of ambiguous states; she hovers in a no-man's land between life and death.... The beastly forebears on the walls condemn her to a perpetual repetition of their passions” (103).
These obviously Gothic monsters are pervasive influences in Carter’s stories. She uses these monstrous figures, and specifically monstrous women, in order to establish Gothic tropes and question women’s marginalized position in patriarchal society.
Something else of note: in Gothic literature, monsters are rarely ever just monsters. Indeed, they often represent something deeper, and speak to societal fears of the time. If ever you wonder what scares a society, if you're curious about what makes a given society uneasy, all you have to do is examine its monsters and boogeymen. For instance, Bram Stroker's Dracula is not merely a tale about the titular vampire. Instead, it has more to do the fear of the unknown, the fear of foreign entities invading England. Similarly, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein addresses the problematic qualities of science, and a rapidly advancing society that has the ability to play God. Carter's prose is no different. She tackles the issues that women face in society through her monstrous figures.