Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Carter draws many images from Baudelaire’s poetry that capture the world-weariness that Baudelaire called ennui. The albatross of Jeanne’s fantasy is the same as the bird in Baudelaire’s poem “The Albatross.” The ship of her dreams is from his poem “The Beautiful Ship.” Even the real things in his world—the cat, the hashish pipe, the autumn afternoon, the rising moon—are taken from poems. It seems that one might reconstruct his The Flowers of Evil from the thoughts of this one afternoon, if only one knew a little more. Carter’s style is close to prose poetry when she describes the afternoon. When Daddy tells his fantasy about the tropical island, he sounds like a doting lover and a hashish smoker. When he says that she dances like a snake, she laughs because she knows how snakes look when they move; they twist and jerk their bodies because they have no feet. Baudelaire’s poem “The Dancing Snake” will never be quite the same to anyone who has read this remark.

The joke may be on Baudelaire, but the eroticism is undeniable. It cannot be called pornography because it unites two willing companions; it climaxes in genuine lyricism, not in four-letter words. Readers are expected to see what arouses both lovers, and what bores them, too. They are expected to enjoy Daddy’s decadence—to know his “forbidden fruit” from inside out. Then, when the style shifts to straightforward narration, readers are expected to reflect on...

(The entire section is 561 words.)