Bogeymen in fairytales represent our fears, and the protagonists, often represented by children, face any
number of obstacles and challenges in order to defeat them. This narrative arc—moving from a state of
innocence to a state of experience, or moving from the naivety of childhood to the skepticism of
adulthood—is ultimately about gaining knowledge, specifically knowledge about ourselves, and this
newfound experience is what defeats the bogeys in the end: by facing the unknown head on, the
protagonists take away the bogeys’ power (fear) and achieve their goals.
This might be why fairytales so prominently highlight the dangers of curiosity: curiosity to learn and
experience is what initially sets the hero on her journey; it’s what drives her past the threshold of her
comfort (her youth) in order to learn more about her fears (adulthood). The journey is dangerous, the path
is uncertain, and the outcome is different for each hero. However, while knowledge is simply given to the
protagonist in some stories—or given to the reader in the form of a moral—we know that being told to
overcome our fear is never enough. In order to truly succeed, the protagonist must face challenges herself,
and while this path may prove rocky, the long-term benefits, the battle scars she collects on the way,
make the experience more poignant.
Angela Carter’s stories in The Bloody Chamber remix fairytales to capitalize on the hero’s journey from
innocence to experience. We meet the protagonists at the threshold of their youth, fearful about the
transition into adulthood, curious, specifically, about the forbidden knowledge of experienced women
(knowledge, say, of marriage, sex, menstruation and childbirth). This curiosity sets the protagonists on
their journey to defeat the unknown in order to become adults. For your third essay, I’d like you to
define what the protagonists ultimately learn about themselves in Carter’s stories in order to
explain how their hard-won lessons might offer an example for other young girls on the threshold
of becoming women.
Note: Please highlight or underline your thesis when you turn in your final draft!
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