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Reversals in Angela Carter's "The Tiger Bride"

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Danaë Brandt

Reversals in Angela Carter’s “The Tiger Bride”

The Tiger’s Bride is a modern reworking of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. Carter takes a keen interest in the psychology and underlying dark themes contained in these children aimed tales. In The Tiger’s
Bride, the story is told through Beauty’s point of view. A previously unexplored side, where the reader can understand the emotional journey Beauty goes through, how she sees the Beast, and how she sees herself. Carter aimed to bring out the sexual repression of women juxtaposed with animalistic desires. How does Angela Carter transform the classic Beauty and the Beast Tale all the while maintaining its essence?
She dismantles Beauty’s mental process during her predicament. She discovers her animal nature as she reaches an age of sexual awakening, foreshadowed by the stained white rose, symbol of purity tainted by blood; and is in fact, the one that undergoes the biggest transformation as the story unfolds.
In this tale, Beauty had been sold to a Beast wearing a human mask. Her father lost her in a game of cards, along with all of his fortune. As with most versions, the mother figure is absent and the daughter is forced to obey her father’s orders, although it is his mistake. She is bound by an honour code to go along with whatever the men in her life have decided for her. This is a common thread with the widely known tales of
Beauty and the Beast by Beaumont or The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm. The daughter feels either bound by her own sense of honour or forced to abide by her

father’s wishes. Carter makes the idea of women being treated as mere property a central theme in her tale. This is especially evident when her father compares her to a rare pearl and the Beast calls her a “treasure”. In no way is she made to seem or feel human, and she feels the growing weight of that realization as the story progresses.
The exchange is similar to a father marrying his daughter off to another man in order to benefit himself. It is a homosocial pact establishing the foundations of a secure and fruitful future for the families.
Beauty recalls her nurse warning her that a “tiger man” would “gobble her up” (p.
55) in order for her to ensure she would behave properly. This is echoed throughout most versions of Beauty and the Beast where the young girl should behave politely, be humble, loyal, passive and most of all beautiful. She faces the reality that her body and virtue are her only assets. When she thinks “For now my own skin was my sole capital in the world and today I’d make my first investment” (p.56), she is still in the mindset that her untainted body is her only value, further proving that she has been conditioned to think of herself as a mere object. But unlike most of the protagonists in different versions of Beauty and the Beast, this young woman decides to be less passive. She refuses the Beast’s terms to see her in the nude unless she can cover the top half of her body. This is her way of preserving her dignity.
She is given a mechanical doll that resembles her (“ This clockwork twin of mine…” p.59) to take care of her every need. She compares herself to this seemingly perfect social construct of what a woman should be, and feels increasingly alienated to this interchangeable version of herself. When the Beast finally reveals himself to her as a magnificent tiger, she accepts this as an act of vulnerability and undresses in front of

him as an act of faith. This symbolizes her first real departure of the social constraints she had been bound by for so long. Having fulfilled her end of the bargain, the Beast reimburses her father and gives her the opportunity to go back home. She is able to see her father through a magical mirror and notices he plans on on departing without her.
Understanding her place in the world was to be a simple object that her father could pawn off, she decides to send the soubrette back in her place as a way for her to assert her independence.
She finally realizes that the Beast is the one she relates to the most. His social pariah status mirrors her own place as an inferior to the men. In the end, she believes it is time for “The lamb to learn to run with the tiger” (p.63). It is a comparison of women conditioned to believe they are lambs when they are in reality tigers and should embrace their freedom. She accepts the Beast wholeheartedly in a sexual manner, when she accepts his licks that rip her skin off slowly to reveal a glossy coat of tiger fur.
This is the only version of Beauty and the Beast in which both protagonists end as animals. This is conscious decision to forsake social conventions. Beauty is therefore reborn as a tiger, fully accepting her inner animal and able to live a free life.

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