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Reflection

Despite the individual power of these tales, another theme can be traced through them as a

collection – the development of the female role. This development is striking in its simplicity:

Carter's female 'victims' become gradually empowered by embracing desire and passion as a

human animal. To exaggerate this aspect of the collection would diminish the impact of each tale

in itself, but it does reveal The Bloody Chamber as very much a product of its time and of the

concerns of the feminist movement in the late 1970s. The issue of the empowerment of women

and, particularly, the challenge to conventional depictions of heterosexual relationships in

literature, art and the media were part of the controversial agenda of feminists of the period.

Feminists today might argue that it is easy, with hindsight, to underestimate how male-

dominated British society was at the time. They might also argue that it is just as easy to over-

estimate the progress towards equal opportunity that has made a feminist point of view almost

passé for many young people now.

Perrault's moral is that curiosity only causes problems because it either leads to discovering

something we wish we didn't know, or at best, we lose our sense of wonder as soon as the reality

is revealed to us. Although the wife in this story does not end up losing her life over her

indiscretion, she is put through some moments of fear that undoubtedly cause her psychological

distress. Many critics have noted the double-standard of blaming the wife for her curiosity rather

than the husband for being a serial killer in this moral.

From the numerous flashbacks and memories scattered through the story, Father Flynn is shown
to have been an intellectual priest, trained in Rome and having a strong religious vocation, but

unable to cope with the mundane daily routine of being a parish priest - which finally led to his

collapse. The boy narrator is seen to have initially admired Father Flynn and looked up to him,

and later felt deeply sorry for him and guilty about not having visited him in his last days - all of

which the narrator must conceal from his adult environment, where Father Flynn is considered to

have been a complete failure, his death is in fact regarded with relief and he is considered to have

been a bad example from which the boy must be preserved.

The choice of the title is quite curious as the story clearly focuses on the boy's relationship with

the dead priest and the sisters Eliza and Nannie seem to be quite marginal to it. Joyce's intention

in giving this title to the story is far from obvious, though a common theory is that the title comes

from the fact that the priest's sisters are shown to be the only ones (besides the boy) who really

knew and understood what Father Flynn was going through in the monotonous life of a priest in

Dublin.