Angela Carter wrote in various forms, she wrote novels, poetry, film scripts and she also translated the fairy tales of Charles Perrault and edited the Virago Book of Fairy Tales1. The Magic Toyshop is Angela Carter's second novel and winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1969)2. The Magic Toyshop is a Bildungsroman, it follows the coming of age of Melanie, as she becomes aware of herself, her environment, and her own sexuality. The Magic Toyshop can in many ways be seen as following the conventions of a fairy tale and has been categorised as some as 'Magic Realism'. In a Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary theory this has been defined as “involve the sudden incursion of fantastic or 'magical' elements into an otherwise realistic plot and setting”3. In this essay I will discuss how Carter exploits the fluid boundary between reality and fantasy.
As stated above it can be said that The Magic Toyshop adapts narrative conventions borrowed from fairy tales I.e. there is an orphaned protagonist who has to leave her own world for another and set off on an arduous journey (of self discovery). However there are allusions to mythology and theatre. The Magic Toyshop is at first set in a typical upper class family setting and then swiftly moves onto mainly be set in South London within a working class family. The setting in itself is realistic. In this way Carter creates a world in which the reader can relate to and understand with potentially realistic characters. Throughout the book the reader also goes on a journey with the protagonist where the boundaries of reality and fantasy become blurred. In a sense Carter creates a feeling of lulling the reader into a false sense of security in giving us this realistic setting.
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...se”23. The story does not end in a typical fairy tale ending but with a sense of uncertainty,
As we have seen Carter uses various different techniques to exploit the fluid boundary between reality and fantasy by using literary techniques from fairy tales, mythology, and even the bible. She allows the reader to have a false sense of security and then introduces something out of the norm so we can step out of the norm and perhaps view things which are different from the world we live in more subjectively.
Bacchilega, Christina et al, Angela Carter and the fairy tale, Detroit, Mich, Wayne State University Press, c2001.
Carter, Angela, The Magic Toyshop, London, Virago, 1967
Hawthorn, Jeremy, A Concise Glossary of Contemporary Literary Theory, London, Edward Arnold, 1992
Peach, Linden, Angela Carter, Basingstoke, McMillan, 1998
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