Angela Carter’s "The Lady of the House of Love" and its Feminist Aspects

Seminar Paper, 2013

11 Pages, Grade: 1,3



1. Introduction

2. Abstract

3. Characters
3.1. The Countess
3.2. The Soldier

4. The Feminist Aspects of the Short Story

5. Conclusion

1. Introduction

Angela Carter is well known for her stories, which often dealt with feminism and sexuality. I want to express my interest in her short story “The Lady of the House of Love”, due to the way in how she combines the topics of feminism, rationalism, love and war, topics, which affect the whole humanity.

There are many books and articles dealing with the topic of feminism in Angela Carter’s fiction. Most of them argue that the central message of “The Lady of the House of Love” is the criticism on the patriarchal order, which is opposed on women. I want to analyse in how far this is the case and how Carter uses the characters of her story to emphasise her criticism on society. First, I would like to start by giving a brief abstract of the story to show the basic storyline. aFurthermore, I am going to characterise the two main characters, the countess and the soldier, both of their characteristics play an important part in the story and through their development Carter tries to convey her message. Thirdly, I am going to state the feminist aspects that Carter expresses in her short story and I want to analyse how they can be seen in different ways. My analysis will be concluded with the inclusion of my own opinion on the story.

There is much literature that can be found about Angela Carter, her work and the feminist aspects of it. I found the journal articles about her the most resourceful. Here I want to especially mention one article, “Femininity and Vampirism as a Close Circuit: “The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter” by Gerardo Rodriguez-Salas. He focuses on the role women play in society and how Carter uses the vampire motif to convey her opinion.

2. Abstract

The story is set in Romania at the dawn of the First World War. Here, a vampire countess and her servant live in castle near an abandoned village. The countess mostly lives from the blood of animals and from the blood of travellers who come to this remote area seldom. One day, an attractive young British officer, who travels this area by bicycle, comes to the village and the servant leads him to the castle. When he meets the countess, he immediately falls for her and feels the need to help her. The countess sees more in him than in her other victims, which confuses her. When she tries to undress herself, her glasses fall off and she cuts herself on its pieces. The soldier tries to comfort her and kisses her better. The next morning, the soldier wakes up and finds the countess dead and much older looking because she turned human. He takes the rose that is lying on the table and leaves. When he is back in England, the rose is still alive and he has to leave for France to fight in the war.

3. Characters

3.1. The Countess

The countess is described as an extraordinarily beautiful woman. Her appearance shows that she is not human, because “she is so beautiful she is unnatural”[1]. Moreover, her beauty gives away that there is something not quite right with her condition, as her beauty is described as soulless.[2] She is either wearing a bridal gown that she inherited from her mother or a white negligée with blood stains on it. This shows that she is not sure which role to play, the one of a woman waiting to find her fairy-tale prince or the one of the seductive and dangerous femme fatale. Furthermore, her appearance seems to be frightening, as her “claws and teeth had been sharpened on centuries of corpses”[3].

She seems to live in a waking dream full of monotony. Every day is the same, only if travellers find their way to her village her routine is broken. Her life could be seen as somewhere between life and death[4], of course she is not alive, but she does not enjoy her existence, the way one would think a powerful creature like a vampire would do. It is described as an “imitation of life”[5], which is probably a sign of her longing for real life. She seems to be imprisoned in her own castle, as she does not ever leave it. Her servant seems to be the only one who goes out of the castle. Here, she suddenly does not seem powerful at all since she lives like a slave in her own house, which is depicted by the image of her pet, the lark living in a cage in her room.[6] As the countess leaves her prison, the castle, through her becoming human, the lark can free itself from its cage as well. This shows that there is deeper connection between the lark and the countess.

Vampires themselves can be seen as ambivalent creatures. On one hand, they are powerful and dangerous, causing fear and death among humans. On the other hand, they are dependent and are in need of victims without their blood they could not survive. In the case of this vampire countess, it can be seen as a vicious circle.[7] She is not happy with her situation and does not like killing people, but she has to do it because it is in her nature and it is a requirement for her to stay alive. This fact makes her lose her power, as she does not enjoy being more powerful than humans. The reluctance for her own role makes her vulnerable and this is another reason why she is trapped in her castle. Even if she had the possibility of leaving the house or the village, she would still be unhappy as she does not enjoy killing people.

Another sign of her powerlessness is that she seems not to be able to escape patriarchal traditions.[8] This is shown through the pictures of her ancestors hanging on the walls of her castle, staring down at her and demanding to fulfill her inheritance, which is to kill people and to drink their blood. It is mentioned in several parts of the story that these ancestors are male. Moreover, she seems to desperately want to be integrated into the patriarchal world. She dreams of the fairy-tale promise to live happily ever after. This becomes clear, when she thinks about killing the soldier and making him her companion. She says “I do not mean to hurt you. I shall wait for you in my bride’s dress in the dark”[9]. Here, the image of the caring housewife is presented which is shaped through male perspective of a woman who is waiting at home and whose only worry is to make her husband happy. The countess is longing for a real connection to humans and it hurts her that she has to see them as her prey. This longing makes her vulnerable and she cannot help herself but listening to her ancestors who want to see her in their tradition of killing people.

If one looks at the fairy-tale genre, you could compare the countess to Sleeping Beauty, who pricks herself and needs to be kissed awake by her prince. Here, the prince, who in this case would be the young soldier, does not kiss her awake, but kisses her dead. His kiss makes her human and therefore causes her death. This seems to be another sign of her patriarchal imprisonment, as she thinks love could save her and she could escape her ancestors. For her, humanity means liberation, but in fact, it means ultimate death.[10]


[1] Angela Carter, The Lady of the House of Love. The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) 484.

[2] Carter 484.

[3] Carter 484.

[4] Gina Wisker. Revenge of the living doll: Angela Carter’s horror writing. The Infernal Desires of Angela Carter. (New York: Longman, 1997) 128.

[5] Carter 485.

[6] Gerardo Rodriguez-Salas. Femininity and Vampirism as a Close Circuit: “The Lady of the House of Love” by Angela Carter. (Navarra: Editorial Aranzadi, 2008) 122.

[7] Sarah Sceats. Oral Sex: Vampiric Transgression and the Writing of Angela Carter. (Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, 2001) 112.

[8] Susanne Gruss. The Pleasure of the Feminist Text. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009) 208.

[9] Carter 493.

[10] Anne Koenen. Vampire of the Senses: The Feminist Fantastic of Angela Carter. (Anglistik und Englischunterricht, Vol. 59, 1996) 151.

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Angela Carter’s "The Lady of the House of Love" and its Feminist Aspects
University of Paderborn
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angela, carter’s, lady, house, love, feminist, aspects
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Nadine Watterott (Author), 2013, Angela Carter’s "The Lady of the House of Love" and its Feminist Aspects, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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