Analysis Of The Puss-in-boots Story In The Bloody Chamber

The story of “Puss-in-Boots” in Angela Carter’s book, The Bloody Chamber, is a variation of the original “Puss-in-Boots” story, but it differs by the addition of the themes of sex and love — both of which are common in all chapters of Carter’s book, The Bloody Chamber.

Carter structures the story in a unique way by developing Puss as a likeable and comical character even though he displays mischievous behaviors and tends to annoy the townspeople. The point of view of the story moves back and forth fairly often from first person to third person to give the reader a well-rounded understanding of Puss’s thoughts combined with his actions. For example, the point of view changes from sentence to sentence when Carter writes, “ … I’d pilfer the market for breakfast — a herring, and orange, a loaf; we never went hungry. Puss served him well in the gaming salons, too, for a cat may move from lap to lap with impunity …”. This shift helps the reader understand the parts of Puss (like his conceited and slightly arrogant attitude) that Puss doesn’t even know about himself.

The reader also learns the many facets of Puss’s personality through Carter’s specific choice of language and detailed description. At certain parts throughout the book, specifically at the very beginning and the very end, the name “Figaro” is used often such as, “Figaro here; Figaro, there, I tell you”. Figaro is a reference to an important character in the books The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville written in 1778. In those books, Figaro is supposedly a liar, yet clever and funny. By mentioning Figaro in the book, Carter subtly emphasizes the similarity between Puss’s and Figaro’s character traits. In addition, Carter uses various rhetorical devices, especially alliteration, simile, and metaphor, to add humor and dimension to a story that otherwise may not be as entertaining. An excellent use of alliteration and simile is when Carter writes, “... Master and I have much in common for he’s proud as the devil, touchy as tin-tacks, lecherous as liquorice and, though I say it as loves him, as quick-witted a rascal as ever put on clean linen”. This line, by using such eloquent language, highlights both the Master’s and Puss’s braggadocious, horny, and clever personalities without being so forthright.

A common theme in all of The Bloody Chamber stories is sex and the loss of virginity. “Puss-in-Boots” is no exception. Carter uses descriptive and detailed language rather than just blatantly saying someone had sex. This is wonderful creative writing, yet it can be a bit disturbing because the imagery is so good. For example, Carter incorporates the use of another rhetorical device, metaphors, in her description of sex by writing, “... She falls back on the bed, shows him the target, he displays the dart, scores an instant bullseye. Bravo! Never can that old bed have shook with such a storm before”. Not only is the literal act of having sex described in the book, but so are their sexual thoughts and desires. Incorporating thoughts about sex make the book more realistic becuase humans do think about sex often, it just is never acknowledged in society. This story acknowledges that all humans, and animals, are sexual beings. The use of metaphors when it comes to sexual encounters in “Puss-in-Boots” is substantial, but again, it makes the story more captivating and exciting.

While all of Carter’s writing strategies help form the story, one of the most important rhetorical strategies Carter uses is anthropomorphism because without this, there would be no story to tell. Anthropomorphism means that the author, Carter, gives an animal, Puss, human traits such as the ability to speak and think human thoughts. Because Puss narrates much of the story himself, it doesn’t seem super strange that Puss has so many human traits. If the story was only told from the master’s point of view, Puss’s actions would seem more unusual to the reader. It is interesting, however, that Carter makes Puss naïve in some situations to make sure the reader remembers that he is in fact still a cat. For instance, when Puss is singing in the square and people throw objects at him, he is totally unaware that that is because they hate his singing. Instead, he wears the boots that were thrown at him everywhere. This is definitely humorous for the reader and shows that although Puss is smart, he’s still a cat.

Carter’s detailed writing extends throughout the story through the connections she makes. Throughout the story there are what seem to be random phrases or words that are in French such as “valet de chambre” and “occupé.” Carter uses French throughout to connect to the very beginning when it says, “Puss himself elegantly lubricates his virile, muscular, Native Bergman’s qué with French, since that is the only language in which you can purr”. Carter included the French to remind the reader of the importance of the language to the main character, Puss. It also serves to remind the reader that Puss is a cat. At the beginning of the book, Puss talked about not being able to complete a triple somersault. At the end, after he realizes he is in love with Tabby, he completes the triple somersault representing the completion of his goal (to find love for his master and himself). Furthermore, when Puss is briefly summarizing his actions before telling the detailed version of the story, he says, “And, as you will hear, brought him at last to the best of fortunes for us all. Initially, whenever this is read, it means very little, but at the end when the reader learns that they both have impregnated women and are in love, the reader realizes the connection Carter made which adds complexity for the reader to discover.

The story of Puss-in-Boots, though short, has so many layers for the reader to uncover. Carter brilliantly incorporates so much meaning into so few pages keeping the reader on his toes and making “Puss-in-Boots” more than just a story about a cat. 

16 August 2021
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