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Violence in Literature

From the stories we’ve read so far, it appears that violence has made a name for itself in literature.  It becomes an important aspect of literature in that it keeps the attention of the reader bated.  Witnessing another human (especially a beautiful, young girl) being cut up into pieces in an unholy way hooks our attention on a vulgar level.  It invokes a sense of dread to see what happens next and before we actually come to the said chopping of pieces, we sense it is coming.  So, not only does this dread increase the weight of the story, it motivates us to read farther. 

Without some act of violence (or threaten of imposing violence), there is no motive for rescue.  For example, in the Robber’s Bridegroom we know already that there is some dark fate in store for the girl when her fiancé tells her his house is “in the dark forest” and he’ll mark the way with ashes.  The sense that some grisly end awaits her at the house in the dark forest, heightens our curiosity and deepens our concern/interest in what will happen to the girl.  (In this case, however, she confronts him and rescues herself.)

In Robinson Crusoe, the act of cannibalism (or his fear of it) adds a new element to the story.  Cannibalism is what appears to be Robinson’s greatest fear on the island:  for him, living in isolation for 24 years doesn’t seem to compare to the thought of being eaten alive and is what keeps him from venturing out to the main land.  In this story, violence becomes the “added boost” to take the story to another level and provide the character (Robinson) a situation of even deeper danger.  This makes the story to (some of) us  more interesting and more worth reading. 

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Learning Lessons Through Acts of Violence: Bluebeard & Beauty and the Beast

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.

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Violence: A Way to Teach Morality & Add Depth to Story Characters

Back when public executions were commonplace, such violence in fairy tales only depicted real life scenes. Nowadays, if children were to read the original Little Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard stories, their innocent minds wouldn’t know what to make of “clotted blood” (145) or the flesh of Little Red Riding Hood’s granny on a pantry shelf (10) . Such depictions of violence were the primary method of instilling fear in children and scare them into behaving well, but for children of the 21st century this violence is just too traumatizing.

For example, if children today read the original Little Red Riding Hood, they may never “stray from the path” (14). Better yet, they may never even insist on leaving their house! Young girls who read Bluebeard would reject the idea of getting married for a very long while. Our generation would be spooked to bits, but just imagine how much violence was needed in fairy tales to instill a fear in children who saw people disemboweled and executed in public on a regular basis?

Violence in these fairytales was needed, partly to show the horrible consequences that followed disobedience. For example, Little Red Riding Hood could have kept her grandmother alive has she not strayed from the path like her mother instructed her. Bluebeard’s wives would have stayed alive had they listened to Bluebeard’s warning. Yet, aside from violence being a delinquent-preventive measure, so it is also used to thicken the tales and build the characters.

Consider the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf is just a wolf until he is actually described killing Little Red’s grandmother. Bluebeard is simply “a sorcerer who would disguise himself as a poor man” (148) until he is shown mercilessly hacking a young girl into pieces (149). The Pig King is only a dirty pig until he strikes his new wife “with his sharp hooves…so that he killed her” (44).Violence incorporates a richness to the sinister nature of the villainous character; there is truly no substitute.

Though violence in fairytales are not generally accepted in the 21st century, it’s ability to transform the characters and establish a dark plot can be interchangeable with nothing. Besides, the majority of our media is filled with as much violence as these tales are. It’s probably safe to say that today’s readers, no matter how distasteful they find these violent tales are for children, won’t resist the urge to turn the page of a Brothers Grimm fairytale to see what happens next.

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Violence central to fairy tales?

Violence as a form of entertainment is not a new concept. People think that violent video games or movies or entertainment in general is new phenomena, but in reality violence has captured the people’s attention for generations. In the beginning stages of most fairy tales, they were told for their entertainment value and to pass the time (Tartar 3), and therefore violence is important in these texts because that’s what made the stories serve their purpose for the listeners or readers.

Throughout the development of the purpose of fairy tales, violence began to be used much less and as a scare tactic instead of entertainment. For the reader of this new type of fairy tale, violence was used to teach a lesson or moral. In the case of Bluebeard, however, violence is used to challenge “the myth of romantic love encapsulated in happily ever after of fairy tales” (Tartar 139) and challenges social norms.

For most readers of fairy tales, violence helps in the reading of the text. Realistically, it makes the stories more interesting and therefore grabs the attention of the reader more. It’s the same concept of not being able to look away from something violent or disturbing even if you one wants to; this is human nature.

For the characters in the texts, however, violence is not as unilaterally beneficial. The heroine, Little Red Riding Hood, or her equivalent is eaten in many versions of the tale, and sometimes even more violent action, such as cutting open the wolf’s stomach, occurs. The violence in Bluebeard is even more extreme, and includes corpses hanging from hooks and dismembered bodies. While we never actually see violence occur in this text, the fear from knowing what had been done in the past is still as effective as actually seeing the violence.

When we think of fairy tales nowadays, violence is nowhere near the first thing to cross our minds. However, violence is crucial to these stories because that is how they entertained and taught the morals, and therefore violence embodies the purpose of these tales.

 

 

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Instructions for Blog Post #2

During these few classes on fairy tales, we’ve seen three major types: Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Bluebeard.  For Blog Post #2, I want to you to answer 1 of the following 3 prompts.  The choices are in no order of importance.

  1. Cultural “texts” can refer to both written and non-written creations.  Movies or television shows, like books, short stories, and poetry, are “texts.”  Nearly anything that conveys meaning can be considered a text.  Your body, the clothes you wear, the tattoo you have, the jewelry you buy–all of this tells others something about you; in short, the body becomes a “text.”  Or your dorm room or your apartment with the types of posters/pictures on the wall, the blanket you have on your couch, the way you’ve designed your living area also tells visitors about you–another “text.”  Thus, most things in the world can be read as texts.  So, Tatar tells us that fairy tales often inspire current “texts,” i.e., movies, books, and television shows.  After reading the Tatar text, you’ve now seen three major types of fairy tales in their historical forms, in their original context, in different cultures and eras, and in re-tellings of the stories.  Can you think of any movies, television shows/episodes, books, short stories, poems, video games, or any popular culture format that utilizes Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, or Bluebeard?  For this option (#1), choose a popular culture “text” that utilizes one of the three fairy tales we’ve read and write about how it makes use of the fairy tale. Be sure to use specific examples from the Tatar text and the popular text of your choice in order to demonstrate the similarities or relevance of the fairy tale to the popular text. You may NOT choose any movie that the Tatar book mentioned, nor can you choose a text that actually has the title of a fairy tale in it.  For example, you cannot actually choose to write about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, even if Tatar hadn’t mentioned it.
  2. Tatar suggests that Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast are opposite.  Do you agree or diasgree?  Post an answer to the demonstrating why you agree or disagree. How is Bluebeard the opposite of Beauty and the Beast?  What specifically in the texts proves that Beauty and the Beast is the opposite of Bluebeard?  If you disagree entirely with Tatar’s reading of them as opposites, demonstrate why you believe they are actually similar.  Since there is more than one fairy tale in each section, be sure to tell us which fairy tale you’re talking about.
  3. Why is violence so important in the texts we’ve read thus far?  Focusing primarily on fairy tales (but you can draw on The Tempest and Robinson Crusoe), explain why violence is important in these texts. What does violence do for people, readers and characters alike?  How does it help or hinder reading a text?  How does violence help or hinder the characters in the text?

As usual, your posts should follow these requirements:

  • Give your post a good title.
  • Add tags (keywords) to the post.
  • Posts must be at least 250 words.
  • Posts must include at least one quotation from Tatar’s book.
  • Stay focused on answering one of the prompt questions above. Avoid repeating the question and be as specific as possible in your answer.  Remember to clarify the importance of your post.  Don’t just tell us that something is “important”; rather explain why it is important.
  • Your response should make an argument, not summarize the text.
  • Use specific moments from Tatar’s text (or other texts if applicable) to support and illustrate your argument.
  • Be sure to introduce, quote, cite, and comment on all quotations.

This response is due before class on Tuesday, January 25th. Blog comments (at least 2) are due before class on Thursday, January 27th.

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