The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter and The Yellow Wallpaper by CharlotteGilman, depict patriarchal worlds of female objectification and entrapment. Theprotagonist in The Yellow Wallpaperlacks independence and is degraded by her husband/doctor due to her mentalillness. Consequently, she loses her sanity due to being dominated by herideologies of what lays beneath the wallpaper in the room her husband trappedher.
The Bloody Chamber conveys therelationship between a young girl and a sadistic Marquis who she married as atransaction 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. Patriarchyis the focal point of relationships in both texts which shows theirintertextuality and how they both explore societal gender roles where woman arepassive belongings of men. The interrelationship between these texts isexplicit as they are both considered Gothic novels that present unsettlingideas of dark desires, the unknown and haunted. Gothic motifs are subtler in The Yellow Wallpaper, which has beenused to shape The Bloody Chamber asit shows the dangers of latent violence. Both texts also display the vulnerabilityof women due to their literal isolation that they physically cannot escape andmental isolation that causes torment and anxiety. The Bloody Chamber is a feminist reworking of The Yellow Wallpaper through the influentialtheme of patriarchal norms and societal gender roles.
In TheYellow Wallpaper, this is exhibited through the idea that a man’s opinionis correct over a woman’s, as they are believed to be more superior andintelligent. Tyson, stated that a patriarchal woman was one who has “internalised the norms and valuesof patriarchy, which can be defined, in short as any culture that privilegesmen by promoting traditional gender roles. Traditional gender roles cast men asrational, 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 describeshim by saying “John laughs atme, of course, but one expects that in marriage. John is practical in theextreme.
He has no patience with faith…” (Gilman 1892, p. 1) Thiscoheres with Tyson’s view of traditional gender roles, as it implies that whilemen often think logically, women often think imaginatively, led not byrationale, but by emotion. The woman has internalised the norms of patriarchyas she believes her husband finding humour in her behaviour is granted, whichshows the depth of her indoctrination and naivety. This heightens the contrastbetween his rationalistic manner and her feminine impracticality. These genderroles are similarly present in The BloodyChamber, which adopted the theme of patriarchal norms from The Yellow Wallpaper and explored howwomen become complicit in their own subservience.
Patriarchy is the focal point of therelationship between the Marquis and the girl in The Bloody Chamber, as their marriage is metaphorically based on anexchange of goods. The girl wants wealth, and the Marquis desires herinnocence. Her internalisation is apparent when thegirl tells her mother that if she marries the Marquis “…she might at last banish the spectre of poverty fromits habitual place at our meagre table.
” (Carter 1979, p. 2) Throughusing personification, it reveals imagery of poverty perpetually tormenting herlike a “spectre”, whichexplains her unwavering desire to get married to eliminate this ghost ofpoverty. 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 ofherself, as lacking in quality and worth. She is helpless and desperate andtherefore so certain she wants to marry the Marquis, so he can relieve her of hertroubles. Both texts depict howgender roles are easily internalised by women, which makes them complicit intheir own objectification.
The YellowWallpaper heavily suggests that women are incapable of changing theirmental health, without the aid of a man, and Carter reworked this idea for The Bloody Chamber by suggesting womenare in poverty without the aid of a man. Both authors may have been trying tocomment on the role of objectification in patriarchal societies and theirdesire for change. The Yellow Wallpaper was written in the early nineteenthcentury during a time where the ideology of women being domesticated housewivesand mothers had changed to the belief that women should have more rights andfreedom. This happened through the uproar of “The New Woman” concept. “At the end of thenineteenth century, New Woman ideology began to play a significant part incomplex social changes that led to the redefining gender roles, consolidatingwomen’s rights, and overcoming masculine supremacy.” (Diniejko, 2011) This may have influenced Gilman’s writing as itshows the deconstruction of gender roles, to female emancipation which isexhibited through the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper and her freedom from herhusband and the wallpaper. Across time in the late 20th century, Cartertook influence upon this and showed the journey of the protagonist beingobjectified and dependant on her husband, to gaining consciousness of herpassivity and freedom through her mother.
The Bloody Chamber as a feminist reworking of The Yellow Wallpaper is exploredthrough the genre of Gothic Literature. TheYellow Wallpaper is the subtler Gothic novel of the two, however, stillemits 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” hasgothic connotations due to being the typical setting of a Gothic horror story. Thisis supported further as it is also perceived to be “haunted” which builds fearand anxiety. She describes her room as being, “…a nursery first, and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; forthe windows are barred for little children…” (Gilman 1892, p.
2) Her room is ametaphorical prison, as she is alone and isolated, but this becomes moreliteral as the barred windows evoke ideas of imprisonment and entrapment. Thisheightens the theme of Gothic in thenovel, as it suggests habitation can literally and metaphorically beimprisoning, despite the belief that it’s the best place to be cured. It isalso Gothic as it raises the question as to whether the house is haunted becauseof previous activities, or the narrator herself, due to her unsettling personalityand ideologies. To support this, Bradley suggests the isolated setting increases the narrator’s paranoia andhallucinations, meaning the signs of violence in the room prompt questions asto who is responsible. (2013) Over time, popularity increased in GothicLiterature, which inspired the creation of The Bloody Chamber as a Gothic novel which similarlyexplored Gothic habitual settings. When the protagonist in the novel arrived atthe 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 thesea… (Carter 1979, p.8) The description of the Marquis’ castle, is an adaptationof the home in The Yellow Wallpaperas 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 thedark and terrific supernatural beings, gloomy settings and fiends of classicHorror.
” (The WritePass Journal, 2012) This further reinforces the notion of haunted, gloomysettings being important attributes for a gothic novel. The castle being on the “bosom of thesea” further displays the Gothic motif as it creates a sense of mystery anddanger as the bordering water heightens the sense of entrapment. The”courtyard” and “spiked gate” are also gothic as they evoke feelings of dangerand creates imagery of isolation and the haunted. The girl also describes thecastle as “…this lovely prison of which I was both the inmate and the mistressand had scarcely seen.
” (Carter 1979, p. 22) The idea of a “lovely prison” isjuxtaposed, 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 andmistress, but lacks agency and authority to change this. To conclude,The Bloody Chamber as a feministreworking of The Yellow Wallpaper isapparent through reinforced ideas of societal gender roles and how these werediminished due to the feminist movement.
The Bloody Chamber, adapted The YellowWallpaper by amplifying the degradation women faced which lead to mental andphysical isolation. Carter was also influenced by Gilman’s Gothic writing asshe incorporated similar ideas revolving Gothic habitat, but intensified the Gothictheme through violence and danger. Despite, their differences both novels couldbe parallels exploring the dangers of patriarchal relationships and the battleswomen endure whilst seeking emancipation.