While reading The Classic Fairytales this semester, the one I found most interesting was Bluebeard. New to me, Bluebeard put me on the edge of my seat as I read further and further into the tale. Seeing his wife be so curious about what was in the locked room and disobey him by going into it, its gruesomeness and suspense kept me intrigued. Doing some research on the tale, I found out there were many films that had been made of the tale, most recently in 2009, Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard). While watching the trailer just now, I found it quite interesting to see a modern-day remake of the tale. However, with this being a literature class, the first question that came to my mind was , Does the tale have any poetry? When researching, I quickly found the answer to my question–yes. The poem I found most interesting was one by Leon Gellert. Titled “Bluebeard’s First Wife”, the poem tells the tale of the murder of his first wife. I love the analogies used to compare her death to the earth (sky, clouds, etc.). For example, “One by one on the stone, The blossoms shudder and die.” This line refers to the women who were murdered at Bluebeard’s hands. “The dark blue face of the sea” she is claiming to have loved refers to Bluebeard. The context of the poem gives us an idea of her death, why it occurred, and explains her love she had for the “dark” man.
|I lie by the garden wall,
Buried and all alone;
The brown camellias fall
One by one on the stone.
Buried and all alone,
Because I had loved the sky!
One by one on the stone
The blossoms shudder and die.
Because I had loved the sky—
The dark blue face of the sea!
(The blossoms shudder and die)
He murdered me at his knee.
The dark, blue face of the sea.
Nothing so dark as the tomb!
He murdered me at his knee.
I knew the truth of the room!
Nothing so dark as the tomb
For the vile revenge of the vain.
I knew the truth of the room
And the price of his hidden stain.
For the vile revenge of the vain
I suffered the knife at my skin,
And the price of his hidden stain
Was two and eleven a tin!
I suffered the knife at my skin;
I knew the dye that he used
Was two and eleven a tin.
I confess I was somewhat amused.
I knew the dye that he used.
I heard the stitch of my shroud.
I confess I was somewhat amused
At the fury that burst like a cloud.
I heard the stitch of my shroud,
And all of the world disappeared
At the fury that burst like a cloud
From the heaven’s blue of his beard.
And all of the world disappeared!
I lie by the garden wall.
From the heaven’s blue of his beard
The brown camellias fall.
Almost everyone has a favorite bedtime story or fairy tale from childhood. These were the stories that we begged to hear over and over again. In some cases, these stories were also movies that, in my case, were watched at home so often that the VHS tape was completely worn down. Fairy tales aren’t take literally by children; even little ones don’t actually believe that pumpkins can turn into carriages. Nonetheless, the stories are still major parts of our lives in the ways we played make-believe as children and in the ways we understood stories to flow.
Children’s and young adult literature is a particular interest of mine because I think it can be just as powerful or subtle as “adult” literature. Some wording may be simplified, but children’s literature, such as fairy tales, still includes as many subtleties and difficult questions as adult literature. Nevertheless, children’s minds are still being influenced by these stories. It is from fairy tales that girls get the idea that they are best as pampered princesses waiting to be rescued, not ones that make proactive decisions. Boys likewise learn that it is their job to take care of the girls. And don’t forget that for old women, the ultimate drive toward violence is jealousy and want of beauty. I want to uncover the different ways that violence is used by both men and women in fairy tales to influence these gender roles mentioned above in the specific stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Bluebeard.
Some questions I would like to explore in my paper are:
1) Is violence ever portrayed as a good thing when committed by women? Is it ever a bad thing when committed by the “hero” (typically male) of the story?
2) In what ways are acts of violence romanticized? Are some better than others?
3) Some of these fairy tales have evolved over the years from their original forms, most especially Cinderella. Do the more “modern” versions have the same impact without as much violence? Is emotional abuse as bad as physical abuse?
Even though the genre of The Island of Dr. Moreau can be debated, as I read the story I interpreted as science fiction. This is due to the many scientific elements in the novel that are stretched farther than they actually go in real life. With the scientific context of the book, the reader gets the impression that these humanized animals can actually be created in the lab. During the time the book was written, this was an actual fear of many people since vivisection was just started to become present in experiments. However, today this may seem a lot more far fetched than it did at the time and would be seen as highly immoral. When explaining what is happening on the island to Prendick, Dr. Moreau mentions how it is a science that has been delved into before, thus giving the science in the story credibility. “You forget all that a skilled vivisector can do with living things…alterations in the secretion of fatty tissue. I have no doubt that you have heard of these things? ” (pg 45) Most science fiction furthers innovations and discoveries that have already been made and exaggerates them, this is exactly what H.G. Wells does in this novel. With this novel, Wells even leads the reader to question what defines humanity. The animals that Moreau has humanized in the story look enough like men, however he can never get rid of their animalistic tendencies completely. The Beast Men are in a constant battle to maintain what makes them men as opposed to beasts. Prendick makes this realization in Chapter 16, “Before, they had been beasts, their instinct fitly adapted to their surroundings, and happy as living as things may be. Now they stumbled in the shackle of humanity…” (pg 65) This also brings the question of morality at hand, not only do they undergo an immense amount of pain during the changing of their body, they also have to live in denial of their basic instincts for the rest of their life.
This novel also relates to quite a few of the other stories that we have read for class. It makes connections with The Tempest, Robinson Crusoe, An Enemy of the People, and Bluebeard. The Island of Dr. Moreau like The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe brings the theme of the Island out. Dr. Moreau’s island does differ greatly from Prospero’s and Crusoe’s island, but it has the element that Crusoe is ruling his own island. Moreau creates laws and rules over his beast men, which mirrors how Prospero and Crusoe rule their respective islands. What really sets them apart though is that Moreau creates a law system and the people on the island, whereas Prospero and Crusoe claim an already occupied island and never create laws, they just assume power. Also, Moreau lacks the colonial aspects of The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe. The Island of Dr. Moreau also draws connections with An Enemy of the People since Dr. Moreau was hated by the public when some of his lab experiments were exposed. This is very similar to how Dr. Stockmann became an enemy of the people for trying to expose the polluted water of the baths in his town. However, Moreau goes away and continues to experiment in peace while Thomas stays and tries to spread his discoveries, but clearly both are men of science and innovation. Another story we’ve read that The Island of Dr. Moreau connects with is Bluebeard, it is even mentioned in the story, “Our little island establishment here contains a secret or so, is kind of a Blue-Beard’s chamber, in fact.” Although Prendick not being allowed in the lab at first is not a defining characteristic of the novel, it still draws a very clear comparison to the fairy tale Bluebeard.
I think it is quite difficult to place The Island of Dr. Moreau into one specific genre. H.G. Wells wrote this book at a time before science fiction was really considered a genre of literature. With this being so, I do believe the genre that most fits this book is science fiction. I also believe that some aspects of fairy tales are present in this book.
I think this book does fit into the genre of science fiction for a few reasons. First of all, the subject of this story involves scientists! Vivisection, the main subject of this book is very much a science fiction idea. The fact that some of the characters in the book were vivisecting animals to make them into humans is absolutely absurd, and quite horrifying. Especially with European scientists having a big debate about the ethics involved with animal vivisection at the time this book was written; makes the book and its subject even more scary.
One way The Island of Dr. Moreau connects to other things, (specifically fairy tales) that we have read so far, happens near the beginning of the book. An old man, who we later find out is Dr. Moreau tells Prendick, “Our little establishment here contains a secret or so, is a kind of Bluebeard’s Chamber, in fact” (Wells 21). I was so shocked when I read this in the book! This is a blatant connection to fairy tales, for “Bluebeard’s Chamber” contained the bodies of the past wives he had. If anyone reading this book knew anything about Bluebeard, they would know if a secret “kind of like Bluebeard’s Chamber” was on that island, it would have to be a huge and horrifying secret.
The fairy tale of Bluebeard served as a lesson (when it was told orally and especially once it had been written down) to be learned and a forewarning to wives about how terrible marriage can be. I believe The Island of Dr. Moreau teaches the same kind of lesson; being that advances in science and attempting to control nature will not work. Nature will most always run its course.
The use of violence in fairy tales has morphed into a way to warn children against bad behavior by creating a “disciplinary regime”. The violence stops being slapstick humor once the stories start adding morals along with a level of narrative that enforces imagery. The imagery emphasizes the graphic violence and its consequences, most evident in the Bluebeard tales. The Bluebeard tales, ranging from the Perrault to the Grimm version, contain graphic imagery that startles and unsettles the reader causing them to remember the “bodies of several dead women hung up on the walls” (145) and “bloody basin filled with dead people” (149). The graphic nature of these scenes because more disturbing when compared to the other fairy tales where such violence is brought about by whimsical fantasy creatures who do not exist in the real world which makes their threat inconsequential. The Bluebeard tales have the husband, a relatively ordinary man, as the antagonist which insinuates that such a man could exist thus making him a legitimate threat. The fact that the existence of such a man is possible, though not as probable, makes the violence in the story a way to make sure that the audience, specifically the children, remember the message and threat presented. The violence traumatizes the characters in order to represent how important and consequential the events were, as evidenced by the Perrault version where the final sentence is there to explain how the female protagonist can possibly live on after what she had been through. The graphic and realistic violence in Bluebeard is there to convey the gravity of the problem to the child audience so they understand and remember the warning, even if they must remember it in their nightmares.
Within these fairy tales there are two very different viewpoints of marriage presented. This idea that marriage is either a blissful union or a dangerous trap still exists today. Almost everyone has heard of or experienced at messy divorce or a marriage that seems it would be torture to be in. These situations are held up within the media as the stark opposite of the perfect love story. The entertainment industry is filled with examples of pure true love that prevails against all odds. This happily ever after marriage is shown in Beauty and the Beast, whereas Bluebeard acts as an example of a dangerous and menacing marriage.
When thinking about fairy tales the image that most likely comes to mind is the part at the end when the man and woman triumph and are rewarded with a true and pure love that seems as though it will last til their end of their lives. This love is portrayed as above other average relationships and as being based on things much deeper than comforts or looks. However, “‘Bluebeard’ stands virtually alone among fairy tales in its depiction of marriage as an institution haunted by the threat of murder” (Tatar 139). This image of marriage may be more or less common than the previous, however, it is still vital that both sides are shown. Bluebeard acts as a way to warn women that marriage may not always be everything its cracked up to be, which is not something often offered to women of the time.
Beauty and the Beast and Bluebeard are both stories of relationships that stand trials and have a woman involved with somewhat of a monster, however, that is just about where the similarities end. Beauty and the Beast depicts a loving story based on trust and mutual respect, while Bluebeard shows a heroine outsmarting her truly evil husband in order to escape certain death. They differ on their ideas about relationships between men and women so intensely that their remaining similarities are almost cancelled out.
I most certainly agree with Tatar when she says that Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast are opposite.
I believe that Bluebeard (referring to the Perrault story) is a harsh and scary look at what marriage is, or was thought of at the time to be like. I believe, more for women, that marriage was considered to be scary and very much dreaded. It would have to be scary just marrying someone who might as well have been a complete stranger! I for one would be very concerned to be told that there was one certain room in the house that I was not allowed to go enter, especially if I was going to be severely punished for it! The idea I think this presents is that once women are married, their husbands may do with them as they please. I can imagine this would be rather horrifying for a woman.
Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand (referring to the Beaumont story) starts out dreary and a little scary; with Beauty’s father losing all his money, and the other two sisters being absolutely hateful towards her. Unlike in Bluebeard, Beauty selflessly offers to go and live at the Beast’s castle in place of her father. Instead of feeling trapped in the castle, Beauty has a rather lovely time during her stay, and grows to like and eventually love the Beast.
The most obvious difference between these two stories is that Beauty and the Beast ends well. Beauty and the Beast (turned Prince) end up living together and happy at the end of their story, while the heroine in Bluebeard is left to try and recover from the horror of the experience of her first marriage. Beauty and the Beast also shows of how love can change a person, and how it can obviously affect the way you see that person. There was certainly no mention of anything to do with love in Bluebeard.
Violence is a common theme not only in texts, but also in many real life scenarios. Since reading the Tatar’s book, I’ve concluded that violence in the stories we’ve read thus far is used as a channel through which morals and lessons can be administered to all who analyze the tales.
In the Bluebeard byproduct Mr. Fox, Jacobs writes about how fellow characters “drew their swords and cut Mr. Fox into a thousand pieces.”(Tatar 156). In present time, the grotesque details of Bluebeard can be seen as not appropriate for children of young age, yet the protruding violence theme in the plot gives leeway into a much bigger depiction of morals and life lessons. For the characters in Bluebeard, violence serves as both an aid and hindrance to the characters. For Bluebeard, he uses violence as a test to see who is worthy to be his wife; however, for those unfortunate enough to have fallen unreliable in his test, their fate will be apparent in the “forbidden chamber”. Ultimately, violence can also serve as assistance for the characters in Bluebeard, seeming that violence in some of the versions leads to the much deserving (and gruesome) passing of Bluebeard.
Similarly, Beauty and the Beast depicts how threatened violent acts can eventually lead to reward through obedience and patience. Although Beast primarily is seen as a frightening creature that at length will lead to the demise of either Beauty’s father or herself, he does show himself to be truly kind-hearted and only after the affection and happiness of Beauty. Because of her willingness to submit to the request of the Beast, Beauty is eventually rewarded with a blissful marriage that is built on her fundamental character of virtue.
When reading these fairy tales, it is evident that violence is used as a greater means of expression that is past the gruesome and explicit features. The theme of violence in Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast give greater meaning to the morals of the story by allowing an outlet for the plot to unfold and lessons to be learned by all who read the tales.