Book Reviews OWLS Topics

OWLS: The Grotesque Nature of Beauty in Angela Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride”

 

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This month’s topic is “Grotesque”:

In honor of Halloween, we will explore what we find vile and ugly in pop culture.  For this month’s topic, OWLS bloggers will be exploring characters or aspects of the grotesque in a piece of media and how it is a metaphor or allegory for society, human nature, or some other philosophical or humane idea.

And so rather than analyzing an extremely ugly and disgusting creature within pop culture, I decided to focus on a well-known character in the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. Now I am not going to talk about the popular story we known and love but rather an adaptation of the story by Angela Carter, entitled “The Tiger’s Bride.”

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(Via Goodreads)

I am actually just going to focus on one passage of this story because rather than having the Beast transform into a human being, we have Beauty transform into a beast, particularly a tiger. The passage I would like to focus on is the ending where there is this transformation of Beauty:

The beast and his carnivorous bed of bone and I, white, shaking, raw, approaching him as if offering, in myself, the key to a peaceable kingdom in which his appetite need not be my extinction.

He went still as stone. He was far more frightened of me than I was of him…He growled at the back of his throat, lowered his head, sank on to his forepaws, snarled, showed me his red gullet, his yellow teeth. I never moved. He snuffed the air, as if to smell my fear; he could not…

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. (Carter 67)

In this particular scene, we see Beauty being a powerful force in the Beast’s life. Rather than being frightened by his appearance, “growled at the back of his throat…snarled, showed me his red gullet, his yellow teeth,” Beauty stood her ground and does not fear him, which is evident when she did not move or show any sign of uncomfortableness. In fact, her lack of fear puzzled the Beast and made him a bit vulnerable as shown by the words, “He was far more frightened of me….”

This lack of fear within Beauty is an indicator to the reader that she’s going through an internal transformation. Prior to this passage, Beauty did not want to associate with the Beast because she found him unsettling and “inhumane.” Yet, she slowly opened up to him and found herself enamored by him. In fact, in the opening of this passage, she is described as an offering to the Beast: “…As if offering, in myself, the key to a peaceable kingdom in which his appetite need not be my extinction.” This could be read as a sexual act. She describes her body as a “peaceable kingdom” and she permits the Beast to explore her body. It is as if he’s going to “eat” her which is evident to “his appetite need not be my extinction.” Furthermore, I would like to focus on the words, “my extinction,” because rather than having this act of desire by the Beast be seen as the “death” of who she is, it is actually a rebirth. We can also see that she went from a timid and conservative person into a strong and desirable woman that goes after what she wants.

In fact, we see a physical transformation in Beauty too. At the beginning of the passage, she was described as, “white, shaking, raw,” which suggests how innocent and vulnerable she is. However, at the end of the passage, we see that she became a tigress: “I shrugged the drops off my beautiful fur.” By transforming into a tigress, Beauty could be seen as giving into her primitive nature. Rather than being human and constricted to the norms of society, she would rather do what she wants and in this case be with the Beast who is looked down upon society for his appearance. The transformation is a source of female empowerment: Beauty is open to exploring her sexuality and her primitive nature. Now some people may feel uncomfortable about this if a reader has conservative views but that’s where the grotesque is located, the embracing of the animal inside all of us. We shouldn’t ignore such a nature within us but acknowledge it.

If you would like to check out the previous post on the “Grotesque” tour, you can check out Lita’s post as well as the post that comes right after mine, which is by Mistress of Yaoi.

Works Cited

Carter, Angela. “The Tiger’s Bride.” The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. London, Penguin Books, 1979, pp. 51-67.


 

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