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Fairytales can be seen as a means to communicate a certain message or lesson to its audience. In Angela Carter’s case, she uses her short story “The Tiger’s Bride”, an adaptation of the well known story “Beauty and the Beast” by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villenueve, to emphasize one of the ideologies that followed the post war feminist movement in countries such as the United Kingdom and United States. One of the objective held by post war feminists was the right to have sexual equality. During the time that this story was written, women were seen as sexually oppressed in the sense that their male counterpart’s desires were seen as dominant. This means that women were expected to fulfil the male’s desires with nothing in return, because it was seen as their duty as a female. By following the journey of the female protagonist of “The Tiger’s Bride” the reader is able to see her fight for sexual equality, and how it resembles the type of sexual liberation post war feminists were fighting for as well.
During 1979, the year “The Tiger’s Bride” was published, a shift in the direction towards women’s equality was being shown. Women did not have to succumb to the gender roles put onto them by society and gained more freedom. Author Ann Jones states that, “In place of external rules the new sexual doctrine pressed woman’s own desire for “self fulfilment” into service as policeman. It enlisted her individual, isolated search for “sex adjustment”-obscuring the common social and political concerns all women shared. As an instrument of social control sex was powerful and it worked.” This form of control was seen during the story, specifically when the Tiger asked “Beauty” to strip for him. Instead of following his demands she created her own terms for the Tiger, enacting her own control over herself. Certain acts of liberation that “Beauty” experiences in “The Tiger’s Bride” resembles the type of encounters women wanted to have in real life during the time that this story was published.
Angela Carter was able to advance the ideology of sexual equality, sought after by many feminists at the time, through the sexual encounters the main character of “The Tigers Bride” experiences. At one point in the story, the main character, “Beauty”, goes to the river with the Tiger. At the river the tiger gets naked for her and after she gets naked for him as well. This action shows that “Beauty” stripped out of her own volition, instead of being forced to do so by the Tiger to soothe his desires without getting anything in return. This is an example of the equal dominance that feminists wanted. In another act of sexual freedom, “Beauty” gains her sexual independence from her father by reclaiming her virginity. “Beauty’s” lack of ownership of her body in the very first sentence of the story, “My father lost me to The Beast at cards.” Author Patricia Brooke mentions that “She occupies the position of revered property — ‘pet’ connoting both beloved and domesticated animal”, meaning that she truly had no form of independence much less sexually. Since “Beauty” was a virgin she was able to be traded to the Tiger at the beginning of the story. Her virginity was seen as a “prize” that at the time she had no control over and she recognizes that. At the end of the story when she is no longer in debt to her father, “Beauty” finally gains control of her own body and finds comfort as she transforms into what she was meant to be.
Angela Carters adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” allows the reader to see similarities between the actions in the story and the values that post war feminists shared about sexual liberation. “The Tiger’s Bride” includes a main character that goes on a journey that allows her to discover what it means to have freedom sexually. Some women at the time that this story was written may have been able to relate to “Beauty” and the encounters that she had with men. This story includes very real elements that a majority of women in 1979 had to deal with before the feminism movement.
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