Angela Carter: “The Company of Wolves” (1979, excerpt) Men are powerful, strong, dominant. But what are women’s strengths? This question was widely discussed in the late seventies during the women’s liberation movement. Women all over the world were fighting for their rights, and this inspired female authors to put their thoughts into stories. Women could be manipulative, deceiving. They could control men when they wanted to. So why were the men in control of the world?
By rewriting “Little Red Riding Hood”, Angela Carter turns the norms of the fairytale upside down, and thereby shows the development in contemporary society. In “The Company of Wolves”, a young girl beats the most manly of all creatures: the werewolf. The short story is chronological and is told by an omniscient third person narrator with a clear narrative voice:”Children do not stay young for long in this savage country”(p. 22). This gives the reader an insight in the huntsman’s thoughts as well as the girls, and we get an understanding of the decisions taken by the characters.
The short story has intertextuality, as it’s a rewriting of the fairytale “Little Red Riding Hood”, but it’s uncharacteristic as a fairytale as it does not start with the usual “once upon a time”, and does not end with “they lived happily ever after”. Angela Carter has chosen to rewrite a story almost everyone knows to make her message easier to understand. But the language in the story is quite formal. This makes it more difficult to understand properly, and it shows that Angela Carter wanted to address the story to the educated part of society.
The formal language is also a way of pointing out that women can actually write in a high level of language. The short story’s setting is midwinter in a forest. The winter embodies the color white, the color of innocence. The color white is used frequently in the story as well as the color red to personalize the girl. The white color symbolizes her innocence and the red color represents a grown woman, her lethality and female passion in contrast to her innocence and sensibility. The girl is the main character in the story, as she undergoes a clear development from a young girl to a grown woman.
She starts out as a young and innocent girl, casually walking through the forest on her way to her grandmother’s house. But as she meets the young huntsman, the man, the wolf, it starts snowing. The huntsman threatens her innocence symbolized with the prelude to a blizzard. At the end of the story, just as the girl has gone to bed with the huntsman, it stops snowing (“The blizzard died down”, p. 27). The white snow, her innocence, has died down, and her innocence is lost forever. Angela Carter is using a woman as the hero in the story, which is quite unusual for a fairytale.
She was trying to break away from the norms of the fairytale by letting the girl use her female strengths to beat the werewolf. She is deceiving and manipulating the werewolf, and ends up sleeping with the werewolf instead of being eaten. The huntsman is Angela Carter’s symbol of masculinity. In this story men are shown as beasts, just like the huntsman. He’s a werewolf, he’s hairy, he’s “carnivore incarnate” (p. 25). When the girl was walking through the forest, “… she heard the freezing howl of a wolf” (p. 23), (“… but she saw no sign of a wolf at all, nor of a naked man”, p. 23).
By adding this, Angela Carter implies that a naked man and a wolf are the same thing, (and thereby she lets her thoughts as the writer be apparent). The huntsman eats the grandmother. He is literally feeding on women, just as Angela Carter indicates that men are feeding on women in society. Most of the women at that time were still cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children at home singlehandedly, and could proceed to take care of their husband when he got back from work. Women were the unappreciated pillar of society. The colors red and white are the main symbols in the story.
These colors are mentioned throughout the story (“… her cheeks are an emblematic scarlet and white”, p. 22). The first sentence starts with “It is midwinter and the robin… ” (p. 22), the midwinter is white and the robin is red. As mentioned earlier, red and white symbolizes the girl’s innocence, passion and femininity. Red is not only used to symbolize the huntsman’s lethality (“… eyes the size of saucers, saucers full of Greek fire, diabolic phosphorescence”, p. 25), (“There was a faint trace of blood on his chin”, p. 24), the girl’s red dress shows how the girl is equally lethal to the huntsman.
By writing this story Angela Carter is focusing on women’s strengths, such as how the girl uses manipulation and deception to beat the werewolf. She indicates that a woman can take a man into her mercy in any given situation (even when he’s about to eat you). But does Angela Carter really think manipulation and deception are strengths? Isn’t this to display women’s weakness, if these are their only strengths? Angela Carter uses the fairytale to catch the reader’s attention, and by making the girl succeed in manipulating with the werewolf, she dissociates herself from the classic fairytales in which a man is the savior.
Angela Carter shows men as beasts, merely feeding off of and toying with women, though they can’t go for long without the love of a woman. Men are unintelligent as they just follow their feral instincts, and can be tricked by even the most innocent girl at any given time. But Angela Carter does not end up giving the reader a positive interpretation of women either. They use manipulation and their female bodies to deceive men. This short story is Angela Carter’s contribution to the discussion of gender roles in society at that time.
Hvad har jeg gjort? Jeg har selvfolgelig rettet de fejl som du gjorde opm? rksom pa, og provet at fa teksten til at passe bedre til konklusionen. Egentligt er det mere konklusionen jeg har provet at tilpasse teksten, da jeg har sv? rt ved at udv? lge, hvilke dele af analysen der burde udelades. I et par af analysepunkterne har jeg uddybet, sa sammenh? ngen med konklusionen er mere klar. Jeg har provet at omskrive den del af analysen, hvor du var uenig i at jeg anklagede Angela Carter, hvilket jeg godt kan se, er at ga for langt.
Tror jeg blev grebet af, at jeg folte at jeg havde fat i noget, og korte den lidt for langt ud. Jeg har dog holdt fast i pointen. Jeg har forsogt at uddybe hvorfor Angela Carter har valgt en alvidende 3. persons fort? ller, og rettet mine fordanskede udtryk. Du bad mig ogsa om at uddybe enkelte dele af analysen, og det har jeg provet at gore, dog uden at komme med en ny pointe som gar tabt i lobet af analysen. Jeg er i tvivl, om det er bedst at skrive “can not” eller “can’t” / “she’s” eller “she is”, eller om det er ligegyldigt.