Explanation Of Birds In Angela Carter's The Erl-King

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Angela Carter’s collection of short fiction stories are written with a feminist approach to fairy tales and are heavily centred around the females experience of the world within the text. In her short story The Erl-king there is an extended metaphor of birds that is used to shape the representation of females and an implied metaphor of wolves that represent males. Birds represent the ideal submissive and obedient female . The birds in the story are lured, captured and put in cages by the Erl-king in which he takes home as pets. It is later revealed in the ending of the story that the birds are actually young girls that were lost in the woods, transformed into birds by the Erl-king. Through the experience of the birds, carter shows how women …show more content…
He winds up “all the birds in the wood to him on a diatonic spool of sound, one rising note, one falling note; such a sweet piercing call that down there came a soft, chirruping jostle of birds.”(Carter) The birds, just as the heroine, are immediately drawn to him. The way the birds come to him represents the naiveness and obedience of the ideal female. However, as the birds flutter down to him answering his calls without second thought, the protagonist is hesitant. She hears his first call but doesn 't pursue him as she knows he will cause her “grievous” harm. Yet, when she hears him call again she falls back into the ideal feminine mindset and goes to find him. This is where Carter begins to develop the contrast between the ideal female (birds) and the actual female (protagonist). The protagonist has conformed and accepted her feminine qualities, and now “when he shakes out those two clear notes from his bird call, I come, like any other trusting thing that perches on the crook of his wrist.” The birds and protagonist better judgment is swayed by the pleasant notes they hear and attend to the Erl-king when he calls them, showing their ideal obedience.They are complying to the feminine quality of submission, obeying the dominant males commands. Moreover, the narrator is being hunted without even knowing it as we see when the Erl-king is waiting for her …show more content…
It is clear that that wolves symbolize the ideal male and birds represent the ‘ideal’ female construct and used to show the dark side of femininity. The differences between the animal and the characters is what leads to the destruction of gender roles which is the effect Carter is trying to give. Carter is not only showing the flaws of ideal construct of gender roles but also rejecting them. Carter warns that women are damned to being put in societies cages of oppression and objectification if they conform to gender stereotypes. When the narrator says “ she will be trapped in her own illusion because everything in the wood is exactly as it seems” it shows that the bird cages and the constructs of femininity and masculinity are just illusions that women do not need to correspond to. Carter urges women to set them selves free from these cages and find their own meaning of what it is to be

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