Essay on Gender Roles in Angela Carter's The Company of Wolves

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Gender Roles in Angela Carter's The Company of Wolves

In her transformation of the well-known fable "Little Red Riding Hood," Angela Carter plays upon the reader's familiarity. By echoing elements of the allegory intended to scare and thus caution young girls, she evokes preconceptions and stereotypes about gender roles. In the traditional tale, Red sticks to "the path," but needs to be rescued from the threatening wolf by a hunter or "woodsman." Carter retells the story with a modern perspective on women. By using fantasy metaphorically and hyperbolically, she can poignantly convey her unorthodox and underlying messages.

Before telling the story of Red Riding Hood, Carter establishes the nature of wolves in a folk-lore or legend
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This is no lapse in consistency by Carter; the carnivorous wolf may be a man that has even worse intentions for the flesh. The narrator warns, "If you spy a naked man among the pines, you must run as if the Devil were after you" (2234). Since the man is naked, his true nature, which is more frightening than a wolf, is revealed. Carter metaphorically emphasizes the danger of women being deceived by the false appearance men present in action and personality. Red Riding Hood is deceived by the friendly, handsome hunter: letting her guard down, she allows him to accompany her through the woods while "laughing and joking like old friends" (2235).

Carter remains consistent with the original story of Red Riding Hood, and elaborates on the girl's nature at the time the story takes place. Red's cheeks are scarlet, indicative of her becoming a woman; in contrast, "she is an unbroken egg; she is a sealed vessel...she does not know how to shiver" (2234). A reader may think this emphasis of her sexual inexperience reveals her naivety. However, Carter's exaggeration of Red's purity may be her way of questioning readers' assumption that since Red is an innocent woman, she will be victimized. The combination of Red's sexual maturity, contrasted with hyperbolic description of her innocence, and the climax of the story contribute to this possibility.

The story deviates sharply from tradition when Red encounters
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