The Tiger’s Bride’ by Angela Carter presents an inward journey of a female protagonist, who has to go through several phases of transformation to emerge renewed. However, in order to do so, the protagonist is forced to face struggles that exist in the patriarchal society such as the gender-based stereotypes, sexual objectification and the drowning of the female voice. She also encounters ‘the beast’ and in the end emerges renewed. Therefore, this essay will explore how Carter addresses problems within the patriarchal society through the journey of the protagonist to present the reinvented female. When looking at the reinvented female, it is how carter depicts the female so that we see her in a new light at the end of the story.
In ‘The Tiger’s Bride’, Carter empowers her heroine through the rejection of the females as objects and those associated with women to refute the gender based stereotypes and objectification of females. Firstly, she is seen as a possession of males. The opening lines already show that the female is not independent; she is owned and used as leverage. ‘My father lost me to the beast at cards’ (56) and ‘I have lost my pearl/if you are so careless with your treasures’ (60). Usually, being called a ‘pearl’ or ‘treasure’ would be seen as a compliment to many women, for it seems to suggest a dark lady quality. However, Carter exposes the connotations of such titles – not only is she objectified but she is also denied independency by being owned by the males. Another object associated with females is that of jewellery. In this story, the image of diamond earrings is a recurrent image that symbolises female objectification.‘I fixed the earrings in my ears. They were very heavy.’ (73) This shows the weight and severity of being an accessory and how the existence of gender based objects in society comes with a price – female independency. Also in the story, the protagonist rejects diamond earrings, which are seen in the quotes ‘I snapped the box shut and tossed it in a corner.’ (67) and ‘I threw the other into the corner where the first one lay’ (68) The protagonist stands firm in her hatred and rejection for any form of objectification or gender based stereotyping. The awareness the protagonist shows that she has an active mind and not just objectified, like many other females of that time.
For centuries, the female voice has been drowned out by male dominance but Carter presents us with a different heroine – through her clear voice and clear goals. Firstly, Carter uses the first person narrative voice thus we are allowed to look at her journey from her perspective.‘I watched with the furious cynicism peculiar to women whom circumstances force mutely to witness folly’ (56),‘no young lady laughs like that… But I did. And do.’ (65). Through the use of the first person, we can see how she reacts to events around her. The silenced female enrages her; she cannot stand silenced by males. The soubrette doll is a representation of the silenced female. The use of the reflection in the physical description of the doll and the heroine as seen in the quotes embodies the vanity and superficiality of society’s concept of women, which the heroine wants to break out of. ‘My glossy nut-brown curls, my rosy cheeks’ (57) and when describing the doll ‘Glossy, nut-brown curls, rosy cheeks’ (66). The significance of the reflection and parallel of the doll to the protagonist is the mirror, which allows her to see her potential for independence. In a moment of self-realisation, she takes control of what she wants, her future. She makes her own decisions as seen in the quotes
‘I had been bought and sold, passed from hand to hand. That clockwork girl who powdered my cheeks for me; had I not been allotted only the same kind of imitative life amongst men that the doll-maker had given her?’ (70),‘I will dress her in my own clothes, wind her up, send her back to perform the part of my father’s daughter.’ (73). She no longer allows herself to be silenced by the males. This shows how she breaks out of the boundaries set by patriarchal society by refusing to play the roles that society expects – such as the daughter.
In a patriarchal society, females are often viewed as a sexual entity. However, Carter subverts this idea through the heroine’s encounter with the beast – one that acts as a pivotal point in the reinvention of the female.
‘My master’s sole desire is to see the pretty young lady unclothed nude without her dress and that only for the one time after which she will be returned to her father.’(64) The word ‘returned’ suggests that the female is a sexual experience that can be bought, the ultimate belittlement of the woman. It is due to the idea of females being seen as a sexual entity, which causes the female protagonist to assume the worst of the beast when he makes this request. We see how the protagonist constantly fighting any form of female objectification ‘You may put me in a windowless room… but there must be a sheet over my face to hide it.’ (65). ‘Take off my clothes for you, like a ballet girl?’ (67) The heroine does not take the shame she feels towards this request in silence. She addresses the sexual objectification of women and resists them. Rather than being objectified she would rather be a whore, ‘I wish I’d rolled in the hay with every lad on my father’s farm to disqualify myself from this humiliating bargain.’ (68). She dispels traditional notions of virginity and sexuality, taking control of her sexuality. Carter also uses the image of the white rose is something that symbolizes purity and when she pricks it and it is stained with her red blood. This represents her loss of innocence and gaining of passion, showing her future sexual growth.
However, the protagonist assumes the beast is like all other men in the patriarchal society and continues to resist him. ‘You should give me only the same amount you that you would give to any other woman in such circumstances’ (65), ‘One single tear swelled’ (65), ‘His appetite need not be my extinction’ (74). She sees herself as a prostitute but he elicits an unexpected and emotional response. This is an important part of the story as it breaks away from the traditional idea of women being a sexual object. His idea of nakedness is very different from what she thinks. He wants to force her to return to her primal self, for he can see she is so steeped in societal conventions that she limits herself from reaching her full potential.
After the realization that the protagonist goes through, Carter debuts the reinvented female at the end of the story with the emphasis on the transformation the female has undertaken. With the help from the beast, the heroine emerges from the entrapment of societal stereotypes renewed.‘The lamb must learn to run with the tigers’ (71). This quote is a powerful image of the transformation of the protagonist. It shows that she is not a meek animal anymore but one that is brave and a combination of both masculine and feminine traits – the new woman. ‘Clothes are removed ‘stripping off my own underpelt’ (pg 73), ‘not beasts nor women were equipped with the flimsy, insubstantial things’ (70). This again goes to the idea of returning to the most elemental form of life, no masks to hide behind, everything out in the open. Even the beast hides himself from her, he looks like a man on the outside but a beast on the inside and this is possibly a comment on how society puts a mask on us, we conceal our true animalistic selves through the stereotypes that civilization has inscribed into us. The final transformation at the end of the story also seems be a liberation from her former self. There is an achievement of some sort of equality at the end; all the characters shed their pelt and reach a primordial state where they are free.
To conclude, Carter reinvents the female by addressing struggles in a patriarchal society by looking at the journey of the protagonist. She provides an ending that allows us to examine the place of the reinvented female – an independent woman or one that possesses masculine and feminine traits and coexists with males and that females should be aware of societal conventions and not allow that to limit themselves.