Agency And Empowerment In Angela Carter's Nights At The Circus

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In the 1984 text Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter explores the theme of agency and empowerment through the subversion of traditional fairy tale and mythical elements. Carter places immense emphasis on the importance of the time period and the ‘liminal’ to explore how setting and time contribute to the central theme of agency and empowerment. Through the journey and character subversion of the protagonist Sophia Fevvers, Carter challenges the audiences perception on females of the time period, while the characterisation of her counterpart Jack Walser, is used to explore the common archetype, ‘The Journey of the Fool.’ Through anthropomorphism, Carter grants animals with gift of human intellect and emotions to create a point of contrast whilst…show more content…
Although, the animals in the text do not have the ability to speak, Carter grants them with the ability to feel human emotions and learn. The chimpanzees of the circus appear stupid to the circus members, especially their master Monsieur Lamarck, ironically nicknamed the ‘Ape Man.’ Carter juxtaposes the intellectual apes with their beastly Master who cruelly abuses his wife ultimately subverting the characteristics of the wild chimps and the smart trainer. Carter expresses the chimpanzees empowerment through their intellectual persistence as the chimpanzees secretly teach themselves to read and write English, but when observed return to their expected ‘ape like’ behaviour. With their profuse knowledge, they break free of their contract with the Colonel, ultimately earning their freedom reinforcing the theme of agency and empowerment. Throughout Nights at the Circus, author Angela Carter subverts traditional fairy tales elements to enhance the theme of agency and empowerment. Through a combination of immense symbolism and the subversion of common archetypes including feminine traits and the fool and common mythical elements such as manipulation of time, anthropomorphism and the liminal, Carter challenges the audience to explore how the elements contribute to the overarching theme the of agency and empowerment through complex animal, male and female

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