The term ‘Gothic’ was first used to describe a style of art and architecture in medieval Europe. It was said that gothic was an “attempt to incorporate the power of wild nature within the structures of civilization” writers later started using this idea in their literature, Angela Carter was was of these writers, using many gothic elements in her stories to evoke certain emotion from her readers.
One of the main gothic elements used by Angela Carter in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ is the image of blood. Blood can be used in order to suggest sexual maturity and the loss of virginity, it can also represent pain and death. Many of Angela Carter’s short stories use blood imagery in order to represent different meanings. For example in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ when the women disobeys her husbands orders the stain is transferred to her, meaning she is unable to hide the guilt, she states “the more I scrubbed the key, the more vivid grew the stain… I saw the heart shaped stained had transferred itself to my forehead”. Here Carter may be using the gothic feature in order to create tension among the audience, it is clear that the girl is inevitably going to get caught, and end up like the Marquis other wives. The stain may also be used in order to show that the narrator has been disobedient, perhaps suggesting that she deserves punishment. In “The snow child” blood is used differently, the Count wishes for a girl “as red as blood”, once given the girl of his desires, she is killed, and all that is left is a feather and a bloodstain – the blood here could represent the counts mistreatment of the girl as he has intercourse with her after she has died. Carter uses blood in her stories to present her readers with different situations in order to provoke different emotions.
Another Gothic element that Carter makes use of is the idea of isolation. Many of her characters are put in vulnerable positions due to the setting etc. that Carter places them in. For example in ‘The Company of Wolves’ the girls granny is physically isolated from society by the position of her house, and the conditions of the weather, and the state of her health. By presenting the granny in this position she is immediately evoking the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness it could be argued that Carter does this in order to foreshadow the events in the story, however the setting could also be used to again create a certain amount of tension within the readers, this could be done in order to create a climax when the wolf reaches the granny’s house. Another female character is once again isolated by her surroundings in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ the reader sees her going on a train journey to an ‘unguessable’ country, her ignorance isolates her from the place she is going and the physical setting of the place isolates her from the society, family and friends that she knows, we already know by her mothers apparent reluctance for the girl to get married and also the similarities to the story ‘blue beard’ that the girl may be in danger from her new life. The idea of traveling to an isolated island heightens the feelings of the girls lack of control and vulnerability, however it could be argued that the setting is used as a symbolism of the girls journey into marriage and adulthood, suggesting that her feeling of isolation are due to the fact she is delving into the unknown.
In connection to the idea of isolation and the unknown Carter also uses the gothic theme of the liminal. By places her characters between two states she presents her readers with unstable characters and interesting journeys. For example in ‘The Company of Wolves’ Angela Carter places her character on the boundary between adolescence and adulthood, typical ideas of adulthood involve an increase in responsibility, and can often be sensitive, it could be argued that Carter uses the gothic feature of the liminal in order to place her character in a naive position, presenting her as weak and vulnerable. The story states that “her father might forbid her” to go on the journey through the wood to her grandmothers house, however it could be argued that this statement is referring to her journey into adulthood, it could therefore act as a warning to the reader that bad things are going to happen if the girl proceeds to take the journey. In ‘The Lady Of the House of Love’ the reader is again presented with a girl in the liminal state, this time between life and death. The vampire girl is presented as the ‘undead’, the woman is a victim of immortality until a stranger she falls in love with appears, when they wake up in the morning the previously young, beautiful vampire has died as an old woman, the vampire quickly crosses of the boundary on life into death when given the chance, the quickness of the change could be used to present death as a release to the woman, Carter could also be using the liminal here in order to express the power of love – the boundary that the vampire has desperately wanted to cross for years happens quickly, and pleasantly in the presence of love.
Overall Carter uses different gothic elements in order to evoke emotions among readers and in some cases foreshadow the events in her stories. It could be argued that Carter also uses gothic elements in order to present the characters feelings and state of mind, the gothic features help to shape Carters stories and give them meaning, she also uses them in order to shape the personalities of her main characters and those associated with them. The gothic features give the readers an understanding of the characters, setting and adds depth to the overall story.