The worlds of female objectification and entrapment. The

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte
Gilman, depict patriarchal worlds of female objectification and entrapment. The
protagonist in The Yellow Wallpaper
lacks independence and is degraded by her husband/doctor due to her mental
illness. Consequently, she loses her sanity due to being dominated by her
ideologies of what lays beneath the wallpaper in the room her husband trapped
her. The Bloody Chamber conveys the
relationship between a young girl and a sadistic Marquis who she married as a
transaction out of poverty. Sex and violence are inextricable in their marriage,
which ends with the protagonist’s mother saving her from death by her husband. Patriarchy
is the focal point of relationships in both texts which shows their
intertextuality and how they both explore societal gender roles where woman are
passive belongings of men. The interrelationship between these texts is
explicit as they are both considered Gothic novels that present unsettling
ideas of dark desires, the unknown and haunted. Gothic motifs are subtler in The Yellow Wallpaper, which has been
used to shape The Bloody Chamber as
it shows the dangers of latent violence. Both texts also display the vulnerability
of women due to their literal isolation that they physically cannot escape and
mental isolation that causes torment and anxiety.

The Bloody Chamber is a feminist reworking of The Yellow Wallpaper through the influential
theme of patriarchal norms and societal gender roles.  In The
Yellow Wallpaper, this is exhibited through the idea that a man’s opinion
is correct over a woman’s, as they are believed to be more superior and
intelligent. Tyson, stated that a patriarchal woman was one who has “internalised the norms and values
of patriarchy, which can be defined, in short as any culture that privileges
men by promoting traditional gender roles. Traditional gender roles cast men as
rational, strong, protective and decisive, they cast women as emotional
(irrational), weak, nurturing and submissive.” (2006, p.85). Gilman,
explores similar ideas, as the husband is portrayed as rational when the woman describes
him by saying “John laughs at
me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. John is practical in the
extreme. He has no patience with faith…” (Gilman 1892, p. 1) This
coheres with Tyson’s view of traditional gender roles, as it implies that while
men often think logically, women often think imaginatively, led not by
rationale, but by emotion. The woman has internalised the norms of patriarchy
as she believes her husband finding humour in her behaviour is granted, which
shows the depth of her indoctrination and naivety. This heightens the contrast
between his rationalistic manner and her feminine impracticality. These gender
roles are similarly present in The Bloody
Chamber, which adopted the theme of patriarchal norms from The Yellow Wallpaper and explored how
women become complicit in their own subservience. Patriarchy is the focal point of the
relationship between the Marquis and the girl in The Bloody Chamber, as their marriage is metaphorically based on an
exchange of goods. The girl wants wealth, and the Marquis desires her
innocence. Her internalisation is apparent when the
girl tells her mother that if she marries the Marquis “…she might at last banish the spectre of poverty from
its habitual place at our meagre table.” (Carter 1979, p. 2) Through
using personification, it reveals imagery of poverty perpetually tormenting her
like a “spectre”, which
explains her unwavering desire to get married to eliminate this ghost of
poverty. This foreshadows her alarming encounter with the dead corpses in the Marquis’
castle, meaning spectres will not be completely banished from her life,
creating dramatic irony. The use of the word “meagre” symbolises her opinion of
herself, as lacking in quality and worth. She is helpless and desperate and
therefore so certain she wants to marry the Marquis, so he can relieve her of her
troubles.

Both texts depict how
gender roles are easily internalised by women, which makes them complicit in
their own objectification. The Yellow
Wallpaper heavily suggests that women are incapable of changing their
mental health, without the aid of a man, and Carter reworked this idea for The Bloody Chamber by suggesting women
are in poverty without the aid of a man. Both authors may have been trying to
comment on the role of objectification in patriarchal societies and their
desire for change. The Yellow Wallpaper was written in the early nineteenth
century during a time where the ideology of women being domesticated housewives
and mothers had changed to the belief that women should have more rights and
freedom. This happened through the uproar of “The New Woman” concept. “At the end of the
nineteenth century, New Woman ideology began to play a significant part in
complex social changes that led to the redefining gender roles, consolidating
women’s rights, and overcoming masculine supremacy.” (Diniejko, 2011) This may have influenced Gilman’s writing as it
shows the deconstruction of gender roles, to female emancipation which is
exhibited through the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper and her freedom from her
husband and the wallpaper. Across time in the late 20th century, Carter
took influence upon this and showed the journey of the protagonist being
objectified and dependant on her husband, to gaining consciousness of her
passivity and freedom through her mother.

The Bloody Chamber as a feminist reworking of The Yellow Wallpaper is explored
through the genre of Gothic Literature. The
Yellow Wallpaper is the subtler Gothic novel of the two, however, still
emits disturbing ideas and creates despairing tension. The woman in the novel,
describes her new home as “…ancestral halls for the summer. A colonial mansion,
a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house…” (Gilman 1892, p. 1)
Instantly, Gothic imagery occurs as the description of,” ancestral halls” has
gothic connotations due to being the typical setting of a Gothic horror story. This
is supported further as it is also perceived to be “haunted” which builds fear
and anxiety. She describes her room as being,   
“…a nursery first, and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for
the windows are barred for little children…” (Gilman 1892, p. 2) Her room is a
metaphorical prison, as she is alone and isolated, but this becomes more
literal as the barred windows evoke ideas of imprisonment and entrapment. This
heightens the theme of     Gothic in the
novel, as it suggests habitation can literally and metaphorically be
imprisoning, despite the belief that it’s the best place to be cured. It is
also Gothic as it raises the question as to whether the house is haunted because
of previous activities, or the narrator herself, due to her unsettling personality
and ideologies. To support this, Bradley suggests the isolated setting increases the narrator’s paranoia and
hallucinations, meaning the signs of violence in the room prompt questions as
to who is responsible. (2013)

 

 Over time, popularity increased in Gothic
Literature, which inspired the creation of The Bloody Chamber as a Gothic novel which similarly
explored Gothic habitual settings. When the protagonist in the novel arrived at
the Marquis’ castle, she explained that the castle has “…turrets of misty blue,
its courtyard, its spiked gate, his castle that lay on the very bosom of the
sea… (Carter 1979, p.8) The description of the Marquis’ castle, is an adaptation
of the home in The Yellow Wallpaper
as it similarly fits the typical setting of a traditional horror. “Gothic Literature, originating in the late 18th century,
coalesce the rhythmical language and vivid imagery of Romance novels with the
dark and terrific supernatural beings, gloomy settings and fiends of classic
Horror.” (The WritePass Journal, 2012) This further reinforces the notion of haunted, gloomy
settings being important attributes for a gothic novel. The castle being on the “bosom of the
sea” further displays the Gothic motif as it creates a sense of mystery and
danger as the bordering water heightens the sense of entrapment. The
“courtyard” and “spiked gate” are also gothic as they evoke feelings of danger
and creates imagery of isolation and the haunted. The girl also describes the
castle as “…this lovely prison of which I was both the inmate and the mistress
and had scarcely seen.” (Carter 1979, p. 22) The idea of a “lovely prison” is
juxtaposed, as it suggests she finds comfort and love in something imprisoning.
She is aware that she has been degraded and sexualised to become a prisoner and
mistress, but lacks agency and authority to change this.  

To conclude,
The Bloody Chamber as a feminist
reworking of The Yellow Wallpaper is
apparent through reinforced ideas of societal gender roles and how these were
diminished due to the feminist movement. The Bloody Chamber, adapted The Yellow
Wallpaper by amplifying the degradation women faced which lead to mental and
physical isolation. Carter was also influenced by Gilman’s Gothic writing as
she incorporated similar ideas revolving Gothic habitat, but intensified the Gothic
theme through violence and danger. Despite, their differences both novels could
be parallels exploring the dangers of patriarchal relationships and the battles
women endure whilst seeking emancipation.

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