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The Bloody Chamber, Frankenstein, and Doctor Faustus: Three Way the Transgression is Portrayed


An essential feature of the Gothic category in The Bloody Chamber,’ Frankenstein and Dr Faustus is Disobedience. Disobedience, put simply is the offense of a specific societal, ethical or natural law. It is breaking boundaries, or breaking rules of society, which is reflected in all 3 works of literature. Frankenstein’s hubristic pursuit of development and his thirst for knowledge lead him to overturn the laws of religion and nature and create artificial life. Faustus’ is also a hubristic character who, like Frankenstein has a thirst for knowledge that obliges him to transgress spiritual limits in an act of blasphemy that would have surprised Elizabethan audiences. While Frankenstein’s transgression is emotional and passionate, Faustus’ is a cognitive option, chosen by factor and pondered again and again (perhaps making Frankenstein a more considerate character). Disobedience in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ however is presented in a different way. While Frankenstein and Faustus are penalized for their disobediences (and the reader is given a lesson in morality) the female lead characters in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ collection frequently overturn social standards and ‘transgress’ in a way that liberates and must be commemorated. Patriarchy and male supremacy is punished and Carter herself ‘transgresses’ against the fairy tale category by overturning and challenging the stereotypes provided.

Both the Renaissance setting of Faustus and the 19th Century setting of ‘Frankenstein’ are societies that are at times of change. The Renaissance was divided between a go back to humanistic worths of balance, order and the research study of classical works and the intense debate over religion that characterised this period. England was divided over Catholic and Protestant commitments and this offers an ideal backdrop for a protagonist with a divided soul to transgress. Frankenstein is also a lead character who falls in between divided societal disciplines. The boundaries between Science, approach and religion were becoming more ambiguous in the 19th Century and society’s moral obscurity enables his flawed character adequate space to make his fatal errors. The context of both of these texts provides a societal rift in which the protagonists show transgressive behaviour which enables us to question standard social norms. ‘The Bloody Chamber’ on the other hand is a 20th century novel, composed at a time of feminist uprising in the Western world. As a writer, she transcends (and could be stated to transgress) versus patriarchal social norms (as do her female protagonists). Carter herself states that she is the ‘product of a sophisticated, industrialised, post imperialist country in decline’ and that provides her ‘the sense of endless freedom’ (Wandor, 1983)1 highlighting the flexibilities that individuals in the 20th century enjoy. Comparing this context to that of the other texts triggers a new reading of Frankenstein and Faustus, one in which contemporary audiences might possibly applaud them for their transgressive spirit, rather than condemn them as their own readers did.

Victor’s thirst for power that science provides is sparked by a lightning storm in which a ‘stream of fire’ leave a ‘gorgeous oak’ destroyed. This ‘amazing light’ symbolises an epiphany to Frankenstein who enjoys with ‘curiosity and delight’. Electricity is viewed as a force that can both light up and ‘utterly damage,’ and the dual forces of this paradoxical power are reflected in human nature and other dualities in the book. The ‘stream of fire’ alludes to Prometheus (which is referenced in the book’s subtitle ‘The Modern Prometheus’) who incorrectly provided fire to mankind and was penalized by Zeus. This Classical allusion foreshadows Frankenstein’s own disobedience versus nature. He is additional driven by his university speaker’s rhetoric that brand-new philosophers will ‘permeate the recesses of nature’ and ‘demonstrate how she operates in her hiding places.’ A feminist reading would see the lexical choice of ‘penetration’ as symbolic to an act of ‘rape’ of nature. Nature is frequently personified as a feminine aspect and Frankenstein attempts not only to harness the natural world, however to overturn the role of women completely by usurping their function as the creators of life. Developments in 18th and 19th century science were beginning to question the nature of life and how science and human beings could handle the role of reanimating life. This presented disputes for what had once been a spiritual society and Victor’s hubristic pursuit might be seen by readers as blasphemous. Victor is conquered with his requirement to pursue this and the obsession to do so, and to transgress versus nature and God seem overwhelming. He talks about his ‘soul grabbling with a palpable opponent’ and ‘feelings which bore me onwards like a typhoon’. In a psychoanalytic reading, the subconscious force driving Victor forward is the uncontrollable ‘id’ the satisfaction principle and primal aspect of the human mind. A typhoon is a natural and unmanageable, violent force that causes damage and so this metaphor serves to foreshadow the later destruction. Ironically, a cyclone can be described as an ‘act of God’ therefore the very thing engaging Frankenstein could be said to be the important things he tries to usurp. Frankenstein’s hubris is highlighted by his deceptions of splendour and his blasphemous pursuit of omnipotence. He talks of putting ‘a torrent of light in to this dark world’ with his creation, an image which advises us of God’s creation of earth and how ‘a brand-new species would bless me as its creator’. His grand speculations are plainly so loaded with embellishment that readers of the time would condemn his blasphemy.

In the same method as Frankenstein, the transgressive nature of Dr Faustus allows us to question traditional social standards as he dedicates the ultimate sin, a rejection of God to pursue power along with enjoyment. The chorus– which is evocative of a Greek tragedy– foreshadows Faustus’ fate; ‘his waxen wings did mount above his reach,’ this allusion to Icarus, who broke the recommendations of his father flew too near the sun, melting his wings of wax. In this case for Faustus it foreshadows his arrogance, pride and greed which results in his failure. Wilhelm Wagner (1969 )2 argues that ‘the devil and our lives in the world can give us no higher fulfillment than God,’ nevertheless, Faustus thinks that to ‘live in all voluptuousness’ is worth more than the rewards he will gain in heaven if he follows an ethical course. The opening soliloquy of ‘Marlow’s Dr. Faustus’ exposes several attributes of the protagonist. Along with developing Faustus’ character, the soliloquy is a reflection of the Renaissance world, by presenting Faustus as a man of his time because the character is influenced by changes in society, come across in the Renaissance era. Nevertheless, Faustus rejects the learning of his time, turning down initially the great philosopher Aristotle’s ‘Analytics’ and reasoning by questioning its purpose:

“is to dispute well reasoning’s chiefest end?

The read no more, thou hast achieved the end

A greater subject fitteth Faustus’ wit”

The fricative and tongue twisted last expression is challenging to state and a renaissance audience with highly tuned ears would discover this and hear the warning in his hubristic declaration. He proceeds to the study of medication, declining the ‘gold’ it can use and bragging that he has actually already ‘obtained that end’. Rather of worldly learning, he chooses the ‘necromantic books’ which he paradoxically thinks are ‘divine’. Frankenstein also rejects standard faith and science by obsessing on the works of Cornelius Agrippa, a sorcerer and necromancer. His daddy’s displeasure that his works are all ‘sad garbage’ further shows us that both society and his close household his research studies but that this is inadequate to stop him. In grand assertions that resemble Frankenstein, Faustus believes they will cause ‘power, honour and omnipotence’ and in the same method that Frankenstein wants a new species to ‘bless’ him as its creator, Faustus wants ‘all things that move beyond the quiet poles to be at (his) command”. The distinction between Frankenstein and Faustus is that while Frankenstein is encouraged by a subconscious, uncontrollable force that is toppled the edge by sorrow of the death of his mom, Faustus’ pursuit of magnificent power and delight is much more intentional and conscious and Marlowe’s use of the soliloquy here assists us to see the purposeful and conscious choices he is making. This makes his disobedience more wicked. Renaissance, spiritual audiences would view this disobedience as sacrilegious and blasphemous however modern audiences may aide with Faustus and see him as a revolutionary antihero and a real Renaissance Male.

Disobedience is seen differently in the 20th Century text, ‘The Bloody Chamber’. In the title story, the Marquis breaks the ethical and societal borders by merging erotic love with death. His Bloody Chamber, a ‘room developed for dissection’ hides the corpses of his previous lovers. By killing individuals, he breaks a considerable limit; by combing a sexual aspect with death he broadens his transgressive behaviour and nature to deal with several taboos. Carter says,” My intent was not to do ‘variations’ or, as the American edition of the book stated, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to draw out the latent content from the conventional stories and to utilize it as the beginnings of brand-new stories.” (Helen Simpson 1979)3. Carter’s reworking of fairy tales to expose their ‘hidden content’ which is naturally violent and sexual. The male lead characters act as pornographers: The Marquis in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ undresses the lead character while he stays dressed, and analyzes her ‘limb by limb’, the lexical choice here highlights his intentions to defile and after that murder her shows how patriarchy objectifies and silences females, expecting them to be ‘docie bodies’. The supreme passivity is death which is what the Marquis will do. The Marquis is a lover of sadism and his chamber is a shrine to his work. The products of torture, ‘Wheel, rack and Iron Maiden’ are set along with a ‘catafalque’ ‘funerary urns’ and ‘bowls of incense’ and these ornaments of death show his obsession with the theatre of sadism and death. The narrator (and maybe the reader) is shocked when they realise how the ‘dead lips smiled’ demonstrating how the victim was complicit and derived pleasure in the sadism that resulted in her death. Carter seems to be implying that females are just as capable as males of sexual wickedness and sadomasochistic tendencies. Even the narrator savor the wickedness of her husband’s deviant dream. It is her virginity and ‘innocence which he starved after’ that specifically excites him and the thought of defiling an innocent. Disturbingly, the storyteller is also excited by his objectification of her: “and, as at the opera, when I had actually very first seen my flesh in his eyes, I found myself stirring”. She feels a ‘weird impersonal stimulation’ and a mix of ‘love’ and ‘repugnance’ at their first sexual encounter. This paradox and undesirable sensations of stimulation at someone who revolts you could be Carter’s appreciation of the role of the Freudian ‘Id’ in driving behaviour. Listed below awareness, she is drawn to the deviance in his practices and they represent the painful experiences of womanhood. This is similar to Frankenstein who is likewise forced by an ‘Id’ listed below his mindful control. Ozum (n.d)4 suggests that “Carter’s tales produce new cultural and literary realities in which sexuality and free choice in women change the patriarchal qualities of innocence and morality in conventional fairy tales,’ Carter overturns conventional gender stereotypes by giving female characters the liberty to dominate their own sexuality and reveal the storyteller’s perverse satisfaction at her objectification. Gothic texts often try to shock, and definitely the other 2 texts include ideas that were shocking to readers and audiences of the time and Carter’s Bloody Chamber does the same. Even modern-day readers, in a media age where little shocks are inclined may be stunned at not just the socially transgressive behaviour of the Marquis, however likewise the Freudian revelations that desire and disgust are closely linked within the female psyche. Carter is revealing the empowerment of ladies through sexuality. Although the organization of marital relationship serves to disempower the protagonist, (Carter herself said ‘what is marital relationship however prostitution to one male rather of numerous’)5 and she highlights the commodification and objectification of the other half through the protagonist: ‘my purchaser unwrapped his deal’. The narrator (who is empowered by the ability to inform her own story, a subversion from the fairy tale custom) is aware of her objectification and how her husband had ‘conspired to seduce her’. It may be this that empowers her as she knows that it is her ‘innocence that mesmerized him’ however likewise that he, as the lover of sexual deviancy picked up in her ‘an uncommon skill for corruption’. Carter highlights the paradoxical nature of desire in the oxymoronic expression ‘And I longed for him. And he revolted me’ demonstrating how revulsion and desire are not the mutually special concepts that the reader could have believed they were. Gothic literature is effective and amazing because readers and audiences can vicariously experience the excitement of transgression and job desires of the Freudian Id on to harmless characters when they are unable to reveal them themselves since of social limits. Carter, like Shelley and Marlowe shocks readers by exposing the darkest of human nature and desire.

The reality that the lead character understands her own objectification empowers her to embrace this and use her own sexuality to transgress and get power. Carter’s usage of the theme of mirrors shows the Bloody Chamber’s lead character’s emerging sense of subjectivity. Her heroine’s ability to stand outside herself permits Carter to remove away standard ethical material, at the exact same time signalling the fictive building and construction of her characters: the muscles that look like ‘thin wire’ mention the marionette motif that runs through much of the stories in ‘The Bloody Chamber.’ Carter uses the objectification of females as a disruptive literary gadget to challenge social understandings. Puppets and mirrors are common instruments of magic and Carter employs both these as motifs of deconstruction; in the mirrored bedroom of the awful Marquis the brand-new bride-to-be ends up being a series of several reflections of the male gaze. Mirrors are another important recurring concept throughout the book. The heroine is able to see herself showed lot of times and see what a things she has actually become. The ‘funereal’ lilies reflect the Marquis’ mask-like face. The ‘adult fight,’ where the woman is naked and the male is clothed, is another important picture of power and objectification. Count in The Snow Kid completely orchestrates a paedophilic dream in which the ‘child of his desire’ appears and vanishes at his command. The Snow Child is made from the Countess physical desire for her, therefore Carter places the Count in the position of the writer, he has the ability to manage what she states and does. The Snow Kid is a masculine dream, she is a powerless figure and it is the Count who has control of her destiny. The Countess is revealed to be a strong woman whilst the Count is trying desperately to live his passing away dreams, the Count ‘viewed him narrowly’ as she reigns in her ‘marking mare,’ Carter portrays her as a strong female who is in control of her sexuality whilst the Count is managed by his libidos. Frankenstein, on the other hand, is not in control of his own fate, he is disempowered and eventually ruined by his disobedience and although Faustus is more aware of his, he still is eventually powerless to resist his fate. The distinctions here might lie in context: the 20th century is a more liberal society than both the Renaissance or the Enlightenment and so the absolute lines of morality are not so clearly defined and the readers are prepared to have heroes and heroines who break social boundaries to empower themselves.

Moreover, in ‘The Bloody Chamber’, it is the storyteller’s disobedience to disobey her other half which liberates her. Although forbidden, she takes the keys to enter the space convinced it holds her husband’s identity. The instruments of abuse she finds and the chamber itself are a metaphor for the discomfort of womanhood and the rite of passage that a woman need to go through in order to become a female. The reality that she is rescued by her mom, rather than a male is a celebration of sisterhood and the unbreakable nature of female bonds. The protagonist weds a blind man who can not objectify her with ‘the male look’ and turns down the deal of marital relationship in which the Marquis uses her material wealth in return for her subjugation and ultimate death by marrying a male with no money and living a simple life. Likewise, in ‘The company of the wolves,’ the heroine is totally free and liberated due to her own sexual awareness. Carter utilizes magical imagery such as referring to it as a ‘pentacle’ and a ‘magic area’ to show the special power it has that can be harnessed by the owner instead of made use of by the taker. Her virginity that could have been a weakness becomes strength. When she embraces it, she seems to handle a role that is more powerful than the wolf. Carter notes how seeing her makes the wolf ‘slaver’, and she likewise actively undresses the wolf in addition to herself.

All three texts covering different period show that protagonists of various genders and dates are forced to transgress. Nevertheless, the male lead characters transgress since of a hubristic desire for power and understanding and are punished. The female lead characters in ‘The Bloody Chamber’ are liberated by their disobedience as theirs is not for a (probably) manly egotistical desire for omnipotent power, but for emancipation from gender inequalities that have ruled over and oppressed females considering that the beginning of time. It could be since of this that they are freed rather of punished but it could also be since of a more liberal context in which readers are not so outright in their religious or societal boundaries. It does seem though that disobedience is a part of humanity. Given that the Bible, we understand that humans are obliged to sin and this is why Gothic Literature focusses greatly on this element of humanity to engage readers. Readers and audiences over time experience the vicarious thrill of transgression through the characters.

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