Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carter's Creative Destruction of Patriarchal Oppression

"There were, perhaps, a dozen girls in the cages in the reception room and, posed inside, the girls towered above us like the goddesses of some forgotten theogeny locked...part vegetable and part brute."

Angela Carter's "The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman" (132).

After reading this paragraph in the novel, I had to stop and re-read it. The treatment of women within this paragraph is brutal, however, Carter seems to have the ability to take such a sick and twisted situation and turn it into something that instead empowers the women, and puts all the focus on them. From the beginning, the patriarchal oppression that the women experience can easily be seen. As the paragraph begins, "a dozen girls in the cages in the reception room and, posed inside..." (132). In this short quote from the paragraph the patriarchal lines are already drawn. The women are posed inside cages solely for the viewing pleasure of the men who frequent the House. In this case those men are Desideiro and Count. This patriarchal oppression continues as the paragraph again reads, "for they had been reduced by the rigorous discipline of their vocation to the undifferentiated essence of the idea of the female" (132). Here Carter not only employs the idea of patriarchal oppression of women, but plays on the societal view of femininity and the feminine role. As this quote shows, the women in these cages have been displayed in such a way that portrays them as society perceives women to be, an object of sex there to serve the male.

Although the paragraph presents women in such a patriarchal light, Carter also has a way of taking this negative portrayal and using it to empower women. First, in the beginning she says the women, "towered above us like the goddesses of some forgotten..." (132). Here Carter physically places the women above the men, although at this point they are still present for the viewing pleasure of the males, they are still both physically and literally above the men in their position within the cage. She also compares them to a goddess who is held in such a divine status that again places them above the men, and is headway in giving the women more status and power. A final significant ploy by Carter within this paragraph comes at the end, when it reads, "I saw that none of them were any longer, or might never have been, woman" (132). I read this sentence as Carter's ploy to break free from the common view and stereotype that women receive and that she toys with in the beginning of the paragraph. But in this part of the paragraph she destroys that notion, when Desideiro notes that none of these caged figures were women. This immediately restores the image of women and although difficult amongst everything else that is going on within this novel, attempts to break the common patriarchal representation that women have been stuck in for years.

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