The Archetypes in Angela Carter's novels

"The Passion of New Eve", "Heroes and Villains", "The Sadeian Woman", "Nights at the Circus" and "The Magic Toyshop"

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2019
120 Pages, Grade: Excellent


Table of Contents



Chapter One
The Archetypal Themes of Quest, Appearance and Reality, and Rebirth in The Passion of New Eve and Heroes and Villains

Chapter Two
The Archetypal Characters of Mother, Outsider, Trickster, and Hero in The Sadeian Woman and The Passion of New Eve

Chapter Three
Past and Present and Individuation as Archetypal Plots in Nights at the Circus and The Magic Toyshop




This book could not have been written without Professor Sahar Sobhi, the Professor of Cultural Studies, Department of English Language and Literature in Cairo University. I would like to thank her for her patience and advice. She not only served as my supervisor, but also as a faithful advisor who encouraged and challenged me throughout my academic programme. She guided me through the writing process, never accepting less than my best efforts. She has helped and supported me throughout this work, from initial advice in the early stages of conceptual inception and through ongoing advice and encouragement to this day. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to her for her continuous support in writing this thesis. I would like to thank her for her patience, motivation, and immense knowledge. Her guidance helped me in all the time of writing. She led me to change my mind about a considerable number of important issues. She was always there whenever I ran into a trouble spot or had a question. She steered me in the right direction whenever she thought I needed it. I am grateful to her for enlightening me the first glance of research and writing. I also would like to thank all the people who supported me throughout writing this book.


The notion of archetypes, close to the perception of myths and mythology, inherently draws from the belief in the collective conscious that not only exists evenly among people at a given time but also is experienced across time. This perspective is best expressed in the work of Meyer Howard Abrams, who attempts to elaborate archetypes as the “primordial images” or the “‘psychic residue’ ‘that emanate from repeated patterns of the common human experience as it manifested for our ancient ancestors and as they survive in the collective unconscious of the human race” (Abrams, 1999, 12). These images are then expressed in the form of works of literature as well as in myths, dreams, fantasies, and religion (Abrams, 1999, 13). Their nature, therefore, ensures that the interpretation of the archetypes remains similar regardless of the time and location of their presentation. They cut across the boundaries of culture and instead represent the deepest desires and dreams that are universal to all men (Vickery, 1966, 17).

Nevertheless, a comprehensive perspective of the archetype requires the exploration of the Jungian origins of the term. Jung presents the archetype as the innate universal models for ideas and may be used to interpret observations; essentially dispositions in the collective conscious that facilitate the generation of conscious images (Shelburne, 1988, 36). Constant reference in the Jungian literature is to archetypes as patterns of behavior, indicating them as “thought processes and impulses that require regarding as constituting the instinctive human behavior and, consequently, coinciding with the biological definition of the pattern of behavior” (Jung C. G., 1958, 261). The archetype, therefore, seems to have multiple qualities including the presentation as a spiritual factor alongside possible hidden meanings emanating from natural instinct (Shelburne, 1988, 43).

Jung deliberately refrains from pursuing the philosophical dimension in explaining the concept of the archetype. He elaborates the origin of the archetype as having rather traditional origins, including religious texts classifying God as the archetypal light, suggesting his pre-existence to all light (Jung C. G., 1968, 6). The origins to which Jung refers have a philosophical dimension, expressed in his position that “Were I a philosopher I should continue this Platonic strain and say somewhere beyond the skies there is a prototype of primordial image of the mother and is pre-existent to all phenomena in which the maternal is manifest” (Jung C. G., 1968, 7). Jung refrains from this strain on the basis of his being an empiricist and thus cannot turn to the metaphysical as the basis for an explanation for the questions he may have regarding the universe. It is notable; however, that Jung inherently makes a deep effort to elaborate the meaning of an archetype, including the possible misconceptions that may exist regarding the concept (Jung C. G., 1968, 12). He notes that archetypes are not to be judged according to their content as a kind of unconscious idea (Jung C. G., 1968, 12). In fact, Jung is skeptical about the possibility of accepting this form of expression regarding the idea that is the archetype. Instead, he emphasizes archetypes as being determined by their form and even then this determination is applicable only to a degree (Jung C. G., 1968, 13).

The pursuit of the meaning of the Jungian archetype inherently draws on the element of the collective unconscious. It is this notion that forms the foundation of the possibility of the commonalities that exist to form the archetype before it gains the elements of consciousness along which it is analyzed. Jung poses a clear thesis regarding the relationship of the collective unconscious in explaining the archetype in his book, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. In this thesis he posits:

In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and give definite form to certain psychic contents. (Jung C. G., 1981, 43)

As such, the creation of the archetype is dependent on the outcomes of the collective unconscious. The idea of the collective unconscious, therefore, is present in Jung’s musings as no more daring than the possibility of the existence of instincts. Modern psychology has the task of enabling the person or patient to become conscious of their instincts, which often fail to reach consciousness due to their universality and impersonal existence (Jung, C. G., 1981, 43). While remaining impersonal, they are not vague; they specifically form in response to particular forces and remain to facilitate the pursuit of particular goals. The typical psychology of the self is based on aspects common to all people, such as sexual instinct or other biological factors (Leigh, 2015, 214). The view and dominance of persona psychology, however, is without any explicit effort to deny the priori instincts common to all human beings (Jung C. G., 1981, 43). The nature of the archetype, therefore, resembles that of the instinct. The implication is that the plurality of the instincts will often correspond to the plurality of the archetypes. The repetitive occurrence of these experiences, consequently, engraves them into the human psyche as forms lacking content and as representations of the possibility of certain perceptions and actions. The occurrence of a situation corresponding with the archetype, therefore, activates the archetype causing the appearance of a compulsiveness which, according to Jung, “gains its way against all reason and will or else produces a conflict of pathological dimensions otherwise interpreted as neurosis” (Jung C. G., 1981, 48).

Further elaboration of the Jungian perspective of the archetype is present in his work on myth and the human psyche. In Contributions to Analytical Psychology, the perspectives of Jung allow the articulation of the different levels of the psyche: Conscious, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious. In his analogy, the three levels are akin to the parts of an island chain, with the personal conscious remaining above the water, the collective conscious being deep in the seabed, and the personal unconscious being akin to the part just below the water. The racial conscious is formed by the joining of the collective conscious, in such a manner as the depth of the water joins individual islands in one single chain. More perspectives on the psyche manifest in his book, The Integration of Personality. Jung disagrees with the notion that the psyche is “the only thing in the world that has no history beyond its individual manifestation” (Jung, C. G., 1939, 109). This perspective runs alongside the belief that the collective unconscious is the history that is apparently missing beyond the manifestation of the individual. It allows the expression of the minds of the ancestors and their conception of life and the world of gods and human (Jung, C. G., 1939, 109). It is in this dimension that the archetype is explained, positioned as the expression of the hidden life of the unconscious. The expression of the archetype, therefore, features in the form of dreams, myths, rituals, and in contemporary literature (Jung C. G., 1939,113).

Over time, multiple themes, characters, and symbols have manifested as common archetypes in literature. Archetypal characters, for instance, have been modified in narratives over time and across cultures. Richard Gray for instance, explores the archetype of the wanderer as a product of both the American old West as well as being a descendant of ancient wanderers from other countries, expressed in literary utterances such as Homer’s Odysseus and Cervantes’ Don Quixote (Gray, 1996, 76). Similar depictions of archetypes manifesting in different forms of literature and at different times in history include Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Milton’s Paradise Lost and the portrayal of the archetypal character that has fallen from good fortune or grace and is banished (Gray, 1996, 145). Conventional literature also features archetypes such as the young initiate, the comical sidekick, and the femme fatal woman. Gray argues that certain animals, like “the lion, or plants such as the rose, or places, may have meanings as symbols that give them archetypal importance” (Gray, 1996, 33). Notably, the archetypical characters are dependent on the employment of feelings for their identification and the delimitation of their functional boundaries.

Several archetypal themes will also manifest in various forms of literature especially in the presentation of mythology. The common archetypal themes are inclusive of guilt, love, death, and redemption. It is common for authors of multiple texts to focus on the same archetypes despite the differences in the nature of their characters. It is also possible to encounter archetypes in the form of plot structures. The patterns are similar, as demonstrated by archetypal plots and themes inclusive of the difficult journey or quest, descents into the underworld, quests in search of lost parents, the heavenly ascent, and the pursuit of redemption by death. Reviewing religious mythology presents the opportunity to identify these plot archetypes and articulate them most clearly such as in the Biblical stories featuring ascensions into heaven and descents into hell. In the more conventional literature, plot patterns of the same direction manifest in the hero’s descent into the underworld, as in Dante’s Inferno. The Bhagavad Gita, a play translated by Juan Mascaro from ancient Indian literature, allows the demonstration of rebirth or redemption through death as an archetype. The story, which is one of the founding concepts of Hinduism, portrays the story of Krishna and the process through which his spirit leaves his body and inhabits a new one in the same way he leaves an old garment and puts on one that is new. Archetypical plots also manifest in the stories of individuals attempting to flee their fate, only to encounter that which they sought to escape. This is demonstrated in The Man who Fled from Azrael, a story translated by R. A. Nicholson from the writings of ancient Sufism, in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, and in The Appointment in Samarra by Somerset Maugham.

What is clear, therefore, is that archetypal themes, plots, and characters derive from the typical experiences of human life. Events such as birth, conflict, difficulty, and death are facts of life that are inevitable, making them relatable by every person regardless of the specifics of the situation (Vickery, 1966, 28). It is from this perspective that a deeper understanding of the concept of myth is then developed. The myth in literature is the expression of human instincts, exploring the nature of a particular people in a philosophical and speculative manner. Mark Schorer elaborates the nature of myth, stipulating:

Myth is fundamental. It is the dramatic representation of our deepest instinctual life, of a primary awareness of man in the universe, capable of many configurations, upon which all particular opinions and attitudes depend. (Schorer, 1946, 26)

The perspective received further support in literature, with the dramatic representation manifesting to explain the inner meanings of events in human life (Watts, 1954, 7). Therefore, despite the differences that exist on the physical levels of human interaction, myths provide a platform along which the commonalities in psychology and spirituality for human beings can be expressed (Schorer, 1946, 35). While the notion of myth may often gravitate towards the traditional tale in typical discourse, the reality is that myths continue to be re-created as the common reality of the world continues morphing. The perspective by Dorothy Van Ghent sums up both the meaning and importance of myth especially in contemporary discourse:

Myth is a dramatic vision of life, and we never cease making myths, accepting myths, believing in myths; even in our own positivistic age, we see life dramatically through the myths offered us by Hollywood, by the commercial advertisements, by the detective story, by local politics, by international diplomacy, or by physicists. Myth appears in a novel when the action and the particular set of manners represented in the book are organized in a total symbolic construct of such a kind that it not only reflects the aspirations and ideas, the attitudes and customs, of a large social group, but also seems to give to these attitudes and customs the sanction of some “higher authority”, perhaps the authority of ancient tradition, perhaps supernatural authority, perhaps the authority of some vaguely defined power-and-knowledge concept such as “law” or “government” or “science” or even “society” itself…The dominion of (as a total system) is the intellect; the dominion of myth is the irrational. (Van Ghent, 1953, 52-53)

The depiction of the myth and the archetype, therefore, demonstrates an inherent relationship in their capacities as representations of reality. However, the myth will often remain unique to specific cultures or people in its details and choices of specific symbols and characters. The archetype, therefore, emerges as the unifying factor in mythologies among different people, having the capacity to elicit common emotional responses and achieving the same cultural functions despite the differences in the details. The universality of archetypes makes them adequate symbols for the perpetuation of similar meanings for all mankind (Schorer, 1946, 31).

In Jung’s work, the origin of archetypes becomes more elaborate especially due to the establishment of the relationship of the archetype and common mythological motifs. Archetypes manifest most prominently in myths and fairytales and the themes in myths are the archetypes (Shelburne, 1988, 49). Therefore, the origin of the archetypes is easily perceptible from the origin or nature of myths. As such, myths have designated themes that are equivalent to the archetype, with the myth being a cultural feature and occurring from the collective consciousness. The myth becomes a conscious elaboration of the original content which was in the unconscious form (Jung, C. G., 1964, 68). The myth originates from the work of generations of storytellers, diminishing the otherwise immediate impact of the mythologeme due to the assimilation with the mythic expression (Jung C. G., 1964, 65). There is delimitation between the myths and the religious perspectives, but in some cultures, mythology is the culture’s living religion. As such, any effort to distinguish between myths and religious expression in the explanation of archetypes ceases to have any clear distinction and becomes rather awkward (Shelburne, 1988, 50). Regardless, Jung appears to have a very minimal interest in differentiating the mythological and religious application of the archetype. This is especially where religious myths are otherwise perceived as the interpretations of the suffering of mankind and the anxieties they experience (Jung C. G., 1964, 68).

Jung provides follow up on the use of myth as vehicles for the manifestation of the unconscious. This perspective elaborates the differences in the use of the term myths, such as alternatives to mean the archetypes or the cultural products that are the expression of collective consciousness (Shelburne, 1988, 51). It is on this premise that Jung perpetuates the perception that archetypes may be expressed symbolically or as religious content or forms. The views by Jung, however, are very clear regarding the role of the myth for the contemporary human being. The symbolic nature of myths makes them not inferior to science and not classifiable as a pre-scientific crude explanation despite their contrast with current scientific provisions (Jung C. G., 1958, 89).

While Jung elaborates the extensiveness of the nature of the archetype, he demonstrates a particular interest in four archetypes: the mother, rebirth, the trickster, and the spirit. The appearance of the mother archetype comes in a diversity of contexts including the personal mother or grandmother, stepmothers, and in-laws, and any woman with whom a relationship may exist (Jung C. G., 1968, 13). However, there are special dimensions of the mother archetype, which only manifest in religion or mythology in the figurative sense. In this category, Jung classifies “the goddess, the mother of God, the Virgin, and Sophia” (Jung C. G., 1968, 14). Representing a more distant perspective of the archetype, the mother in mythology manifests as any of the representations of the internal desire for redemption as humans. These are inclusive of features such as the Kingdom of God and paradise of Jerusalem in religious mythology. Jung goes on to elaborate “many things arousing devotion or feelings of awe, as for instance the Church, the university, heaven, earth, the woods, the underworld, or the moon can manifest as mother symbols” (Jung C. G.,1968, 15). This distant association manifests in the magic circle or the mandala as a representation of the mother archetype. The archetype, however, has been shown to have both negative and positive representations. The goddesses of fate typically display ambivalent qualities, while evil symbols are inclusive of the sea witch or serpent, deep water, and bogies like Lilith and Empusa (Jung C. G., 1981, 92). Consequently, Jung’s emphasis is on the fact that the mother archetype may be represented both in a negative and positive light. These dimensions may manifest from a single point or simultaneously within the same mythology. Regardless, she maintains her features of Stygian depth, her nourishing goodness, and the orgiastic emotionality (Jung C. G., 1968, 16).

The archetype of rebirth in literature often involves the realization of the new self, occurring either psychologically or in literal physical form (Herz & Gallo, 1996, 65). Jung classifies rebirth into several aspects, the first that features metempsychosis - the prolonging of the life of an individual through the passing through different bodily existences or the occurrence of reincarnations (Jung C. G., 1968, 53). While the concept may have borrowed heavily from the Buddhist doctrine, it remains uncertain on whether the reincarnation includes personality or whether it only involves karma (Jung C. G., 1981, 114). Reincarnation, however, features the complete rebirth inclusive of the personality and in a human body. Additional perspectives of the concept include resurrection, whereby the human existence is reestablished after death (Jung C. G., 1968, 54). The resurrection may be in the form of the carnal body as in the Christian religious mythology or the subtle body, the latter of which implies a spiritual glorification of the self after death. Rebirth as the fourth dimension, implies renewal such as in the increase of strength or healing (Jung C. G., 1981, 115).

The change may also include transformation from a mortal into an immortal being, again as expressed in the Christian mythology of the assumption of the mother of God. The fifth form, participation in a transformation process, is indirect and accomplished only spiritually (Bedetti, 1988, 135). The aspect is such as in the involvement of the religious mass or in pagan rituals as in the Eleusinian mysteries where the initiate confesses the grace emanating from the certainty of immortality (Jung C. G., 1981, 115). The rebirth and the participation in transformations are easier to articulate in conventional mythology, featuring in common texts like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the pursuit of identity by Huck (Twain, 1950, 110). Memory, another contemporary text, features the rebirth of Johnny through his efforts to help a bag lady and the symbolic involvement in baptism by rain. In Memory, Margaret Mahy expressly uses the concept of rebirth to describe Johnny’s experience and change: “OK- come on!’ He said to the tap. ‘Baptize me while you have the chance. Make me all new… I dare you” (Mahy, 1988, 246). These perspectives elaborate the common manifestation of the rebirth archetype in both traditional and contemporary mythology, further supporting the Jungian notions of the archetype and the myth being more than pre-scientific manifestations.

Considering the spirit in its archetypal form differs from the conventional understanding of the spirit. Jung’s conceptualization of the spirit archetype necessitates exploration of the concept both from the psychological and traditional religious application. For the psychologist, the spirit is a phenomenon in constant contest with the ego as an unconscious superior, as with every autonomous complex (Jung C. G., 1968, 101). Nevertheless, sufficient justice to the spirit requires pursuing the religious perception of the spirit as stemming from a higher consciousness. Ultimately, while Jung is keen in his work to stipulate his objection to pursuing the metaphysical, the basic tenets of some Kantian dynamics manifest in his conceptualization of the spirit archetype.

The archetype of spirit in the shape of a man, hobgoblin, or animal always appears in a situation where insight, understanding, good advice, determination, planning, etc., are needed but cannot be mustered on one’s own resources. The archetype compensates this state of spiritual deficiency by contents designed to fill the gap. (Jung C. G., 1981, 216)

Quite often, therefore, the nature of the spirit archetype in the myths is akin to the same as in dreams. It will manifest when the hero in the myth is in need, providing solutions to problems that are too complex to be solved within the conscious mind of the human (Jung C. G., 1981, 214). The Christian concept of the spirit, other than attributing all spiritual experiences to God, articulates this role of the spirit archetype perfectly. Narratives such as the encounters of Jesus with the Holy Spirit demonstrate the role of the spirit in the story curve experienced by the hero (Ulanov, 2005, 31). In Jung’s relentless pursuit of a way to reconnect people with their religious traditions, he sought to make bridges between religious figures and the psyche (Ulanov, 2005, 31). As such, the overarching approach within the Jungian articulation of the spirit archetype is a consistent attempt to specify the capacity to relate religious and mythological beliefs with the instinctual basis of expression of human life.

Finally, contemplating the trickster archetype from a Jungian perspective pronounces the difficulty he experiences defining this archetype within the limitations of space. Jung’s trickster is “An archetypal psychic structure of extreme antiquity. In his clearest manifestations, he is a faithful reflection of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to a psyche that has hardly left the animal level” (Jung, C. G., 1968, 165). While common in most cultural tales, the trickster will usually be specific to the story and change according to the culture. Due to the connection of the archetype to the psyche, it is common to find elements of the trickster in aspects of parapsychology. Consider the occurrences commonly related to poltergeists, an extensive manifestation in the psychology of the pre-adolescent child. Jung also exemplifies the personality of the trickster in Mercurius, whose character has most of the motifs of the trickster. These are inclusive of “his fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks, his powers as a shape-shifter, his dual nature, half animal, half divine, his exposure to all kinds of tortures, and—last but not least—his approximation to the figure of a savior” (Jung C. G., 1981, 255). These characteristics resound with tricksters in other cultures, such as the Greek Hermes and the more contemporary Tom Thumb. The common element is the ability of the trickster to manifest as the shadow in masses, owing to the tendency of the group to subdue the individual (Jung C. G., 1968, 167). The manifestation of the shadow demonstrates support for the psychological perspective of subdued elements of the psyche that sit on the borderline between consciousness and the unconscious (Euba, 1989, 54). The implication, therefore, is that every character has the potential for turning into the trickster depending on the conditions surrounding each stage in the development of the myth.

Jung’s characterization of archetypes as deriving from art, myths, or dreams perpetuates the conception of common themes that are either representations or based on archetypes. The myths and universal literature contain themes that appear everywhere, often impressing and fascinating the ego. Such common themes include the development of consciousness as the movement from darkness to light, initiation from one phase into another, the establishment of a sense of self especially relative to the rest of the world, loss and separation, love and persecution, good and bad, and the struggle with ambivalence (Brooke R. , 2015, 161). Additional themes that are typical include death and rebirth or sickness and renewal, fear for death or the void, mothers, the negotiation of the Oedipus complex, and finding the self in an otherwise divided or even gendered world (Jung C. G., 1964, 112). There are themes that address journeys through the underworld as a process of transformation, spiritual journeys, parenting and taboos, fairness and justice concepts, and the encounters with the sacred (Brooke R. , 2015, 161).

Of course, within the effort to understand Jung’s archetypes in Carter’s work, not all the themes feature, despite their typicality. Some of the themes that resonate in most of the texts include the journey as part of transformation, the mother, initiation into phases, and struggles with loss and separation. There are also themes such as the discovery of the self in a world divided along gender expectations, which overlaps with the theme of mother and parenting as well as the fear of death. While some of these themes manifest openly in the characterization of the archetypes, some of them remain subtle like in the identification of the fear of death. Focusing on these allows determination of the extent to which Carter typically demonstrates their recurrence in archetypal format and the approaches she uses to either satirically present the archetype or represent it in its completeness.

The understanding of mythology and archetypes allows the exploration of the same concept through the work of Angela Carter. Angela Carter (1940 – 1992) is a contemporary British novelist. The publication of her first novel, Shadow Dance, took place in 1965. Since then, she produced eight more novels, three collections of short stories, a translation of French fairy tales, a study of pornography, and a lot of assorted articles and reviews. Angela Carter has also written several radio scripts and, with Neil Jordan, she wrote the screenplay of the story “The Company of Wolves” for the 1984 film of the same name. Her work has received resounding acclaim in popular media and platforms. Carter’s second novel, The Magic Toyshop, won the John Llewellyn Rhys in 1967. Her third novel Several Perceptions won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1978. Her approach to contemporary writing is unique, especially in her articulation of Western sexuality. Both her choice of brusque language and the appeal to humor makes her fiction thrilling to a certain extent and very often amusing (Morrison, 1999, 31).

Carter’s texts raise multiple issues while also applying a wide range of characters, discourses, and the manifestation of uninterrupted conflict much as it is in the typical life of the person. Particularly, however, Carter’s books have been the subject of extensive literary discussions on the representation of feminism within largely patriarchal contexts. Her work manages to articulate the controversies emanating from the conventional fairy tale, providing fodder for criticism and enunciation of the suppressed perspectives over time. The dominance of the fairy tale in both traditional and contemporary mythology not only provides Carter with this thorough and oppressive original material, but also as illustrated in the work of Patricia Brooke, allows her to “contest the authorial position, rejecting the romantic and modern authoritative voice in favor of the multiplicity of voices, often female, that have been repressed by the official narrations of Perrault, Grimm, or Disney” (Brooke, 2004, 67). Even then, Carter’s work does not wholly dispose of the heroic male in convention to laud the female unfettered. The characters in her texts are as flawed as would be expected in the natural context, but then they provide the opportunity to explore and criticize the typical presentation of the myth from a different perspective.

Some of the works of Angela Carter that is part of this analysis includes Nights at the Circus, The Magic Toyshop, The Sadeian Woman, The Passion of New Eve, and Heroes and Villains. Within each text, particular characters take dominance in the exploration of the plot, the themes, and the resulting expression and presentation of archetypes. In Nights at the Circus, for instance, the core focus is on the life of Sophie Fevvers and her life in the brothel house and at the circus. While the analysis will subtly revert to other characters like Jack, the interest in Fevvers allows exploration of themes like struggles in the gendered society and transformation and renewal. The Magic Toyshop is rather unconventional, unsurprisingly for Carter, and its analysis will focus on Melanie as one of Carter’s women. However, the focus is both on Melanie and other women in the book, once again allowing the exploration of the journey and transformation as well as the possible subversion of gender roles in the context. The potentially feminist focus that emerges from the approach to involving these two texts also manifests in The Passion of New Eve, Heroes and Villains, as well as in The Sadeian Woman. This is not to mean that alternative plots are overlooked in the texts. The plots involve the assessment of courage and fear as themes, especially in the context of heroism in the plot. The hero archetype, especially in The Passion of New Eve also necessitates contemplation of the themes of transition into consciousness, initiation, and journeys either physically or spiritually.

Carter’s fiction provides the reader the opportunity to view the myths of tradition through the modern perspective, inducing permeability into the superstitions and the myths of the ancestral views through the forceful insertion of modern rationality. The concept of the archetype is presented in the Jungian literature as depicting the archaic perceptions of the ancestors and manifesting as a consistent heritage in the contemporary character and reader. Therefore, the consensus from reading Carter’s literature is that it exhibits the archetypical connections with the existent mythology and literary traditions. These dispositions manifest in Carter’s fiction, with the assumption or supposition among the characters regarding the existence of a group psyche. However, it is impossible to overlook the fact that she reevaluates the female experience in most of her work especially as it manifested in the largely patriarchal society of original mythology. While Carter strives to achieve a unique voice in the sea of literature, that is contemporary mythology, the choice of narrative techniques, plots, and characters all pose the distinct characteristics of the traditional folklore in multiple cultures.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most intriguing aspect that necessitates the exploration of the manifestation of archetypes in her work is her attitude towards the concept as well as towards myths. At the beginning of her book, The Sadeian Woman, Carter denounces the myth and the archetype indicating:

Myth deals in false universals, to dull the pain of particular circumstances. In no area is this truer than in that of relations between the sexes. … and archetypes serve only to confuse the main issue, that relationships between the sexes are determined by history and by the historical fact of the economic dependence of women upon men. (The Sadeian Woman, 5)

Contemplating Carter’s archetypes of the hero and the outsider requires a seemingly simultaneous application, especially due to the author’s tendency to juxtapose typical mythological representations within the same texts. It is particularly intriguing to explore the unlikely heroes in The Sadeian Woman, even though these heroes are woven from the original characterization of the Marquis de Sade. Like the archetypal hero, the heroines in this text have their story curves featuring significant transformations from weak selves to discoveries of the self and the acquisition of weapons that only they can wield (Acheson & Ross, 2005, 27). However, in The Sadeian Woman, the transformations of the heroines are particularly negative, or regressive, towards their pursuit of libertine ways and supposed sexual freedom. Carter states of Juliette that: she does not need to submit to the law, she is in complicity with the law and it is adjusted, if not made, for her benefit. She sleeps with the makers of the law and caters to their picturesque sexual needs; she knows their weak spots and indulges them, and so she has their Mafia-like protection. (The Sadeian Woman, 117)

In the typical way of the hero, Carter’s heroines have special weapons but in the form of their sexuality. The perspective accentuates her inclination towards the pursuit of the feminist discourse while also expressing her perceptions towards the conventional approach to the development of mythological literature.

There are variations in literature on the heroic ideal as expressed in their mythology. The Battle of Maldon, an old English poem, articulates the notion of the courage of the hero: “Courage must be the firmer, heart the bolder, spirit the greater, as our strength grows less” (Wood, 1991, 263). The perspective represents the brave resistance of the local Essex militia against the raids of the Danes, doomed as the resistance was. In the course of the decline of the Roman Empire, the passage was a representation of one of the most dominant perceptions of heroism among the Germanic tribes who occupied northern Europe. This perspective is one that places the hero as one who has courage and loyalty, a common perception among warrior societies. The variations may occur, therefore, according to the main ideals of society. Where a mercantile society is prominent, the main ideals may focus on wealth and prudence, or sainthood in a priestly society.

The tale of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey keenly elaborates the differences in the perception of heroism based on the society of the time and place. The struggles of Odysseus to return home focus more on his intelligence than his courage and strength, an element that would have been attractive to the scholarly audiences of Greece during this time. His demonstration of honor, such as in the failure to gloat over his punishment of those that defiled his home, also perpetuate his understanding of the hero. Odysseus is also a skilled musician and bears a bow uniquely well, combining the most attractive qualities into one person to form a hero that perfectly appeals to the society of the time. As such, Homer’s focus, like that of other authors, is on the crafting of heroes that the audience can understand and associate with. This aspect explains Carter’s inclination towards heroines, as well as her rather absurd depictions of their achievement of feminine freedom and their pursuit of the same for others.

Research Questions and Objectives

This introduction provides a framework for the conceptualization of the mythic motifs and archetypes as they manifest in the work of Angela Carter. Carter’s work is already dynamically positioned as strongly pursuing the feminist agenda, which is an opportunity for the review of the presentation of the Jungian archetypes as they manifest in mythology. Carter’s literature battles the sanitization of the fairy tale that sought to appeal to the audiences of the patriarchal times. Her often harsh choice of language also promises to present rather challenging elements into the process of analysis. The multicultural nature of the archetypes of Carl Jung provides the assurance of identifying common archetypes in Carter’s text, but the background into the nature of her writing assures of the presentation of these motifs in a unique manner.

The perspectives and views expressed in Carter’s work make it essential to explore how she characterizes her work and presents her plot. To what degree does she articulate the archetypes? Does she deviate from the conventional archetypes and does the deviation make her narrative harder to relate to? This analysis explores her work in detail, noting specific archetypes as they manifest in multiple works and determining their implications in her overarching pursuit of articulating the female voice.

The research shows the degree to which Angela Carter’s work conveys the Jungian archetypes in their typical manifestation in mythology and religion. It also determines the deviation of Angela Carter’s works from the conventional archetypes and the influence of the possible deviations on the audience’s ability to relate to the story. The research also explains the role of the feminist influence in expressing the archetypes and the possible variations that emanate from the effort to modify the patriarchal narrative

The study explores the archetypes in Carter’s work through three broad classifications, presenting the opportunity to synchronize the perspectives and offer an elaborate conclusion regarding her work. The first classification in chapter one features archetypal themes in The Passion of New Eve and Heroes and Villains including the rebirth archetype, alongside the archetypes of appearance and reality, and the quest of the hero. The second category, addressed in chapter two, will focus on archetypal characters in The Sadeian Woman, and The Passion of New Eve featuring the Mother archetype, the Outsider, the Trickster, and the Hero. The third category, which is discussed in chapter three, explores the occurrence of the archetypal plot in Nights at the Circus, and The Magic Toyshop, elaborating the Past and Present and Individuation as common plots in the narratives.

Chapter One

The Archetypal Themes of Quest, Appearance and Reality, and Rebirth in The Passion of New Eve, and Heroes and Villains

The works of Angela Carter, The Passion of New Eve and Heroes and Villains articulate multiple archetypal themes. Jung considered all human experiences to be experiences of phenomena, as opposed to their being experiences of objective reality. As such, there are consistent affirmations of his interpretations being those of human perceptions of their own psyche and not metaphysical statements on any phenomena or experience. A significant component of this chapter focuses on the quest archetype and its inherent connection to the rebirth archetype. There is a deliberate effort to link these aspects to the notions of appearance and reality as they manifest in their archetypal capacities and their influence on the perception of the unconscious.

Feminist critics and authors would be in agreement with Jung on that the patterns expressed in mythology are reflections of the individual’s psychological development (Jung C. G., 1958, 43). The archetypal rebirth journey for Jung involves the hero’s crossing the threshold of the conscious and the unconscious as he seeks to embrace his internal nature. This internal nature forms the basis for the connection of the experience of the hero with the entire society, as it is a part of the collective unconscious defining the archetype (Leigh, 2015, 191). The journey of the male hero will usually involve a movement into areas that are beyond the normalcy of the culture, but this movement is relatable to the cultural consciousness (Jung C. G., 1981, 156). A significant element of this quest is the struggle with the combination of the shadow and the anima, overcoming their capacity as the dual mother (Sugg, 1992, 160). Only then can the hero return, having conquered his feminine side and the autonomous control he exercises over all his impulses.

While the hero may not always be readmitted into society, he often is lauded for his acts. In cases where the outcome fails, the hero becomes the object of legend and his actions are signified to such degrees that they require emulation (Kirsch & Stein, 2013, 141). However, for the feminine hero, her admittance back into society is coupled with fear and scorn. In the ancient tales of the Greeks, Demeter’s rescue of Persephone comes at the cost of her never gaining readmission to Olympus (Sugg, 1992, 160). Western literature also tends to support the perception of autonomous women as witches (Sugg, 1992, 160). These differences and the Jungian perspective will form a critical component of understanding Carter’s choices regarding the quests and rebirths of heroes in both The Passion of New Eve and Heroes and Villains.

Doran and others note that Jung fails to provide any theory of the distinction between appearances and reality from the perspective of human judgment (Leigh, 2015, 107). However, Jung is emphatic regarding the ability to strip away appearance and focus on reality as the truth through the deliberate removal of the influence of the unconscious. He calls upon the work of Schiller regarding reality and appearance, stipulating that:

Man exercises his human right to sovereignty in the art of appearance and the more strictly he here distinguishes between mine and thine, the more carefully he separates from being. The more independence he learns to give to this form, the more he will not merely extend the realm of beauty but even more secure the boundaries of truth. For he cannot cleanse appearance from reality without at the same time liberating reality from appearance. (Jung C. G., 1953, 2189)

As such, the difference between appearance and reality as a mythological archetype focuses on the false glamor the unconscious imposes on the person perceiving a concept or an occurrence. The insinuation behind the archetype is that without the recognition of the role of the unconscious, the person likely fails to see the truth. The expression of fantasy in Carter’s text demonstrates the differences that often exist between reality and appearance.

Perhaps most evident in The Passion of New Eve is the manifestation of appearance and reality in the entire narrative. Quite frequently, appearance may be borne of fantasy, deliberately built to match the imagination in a manner that is far from reality. From the beginning, the presentation of Tristessa as the ideal image of a woman from the masculine perspective forms a core aspect of the storyline and the development of the plot. The narrator depicts her perfection both to him and the entire world, recalling her billing as the most beautiful woman with the capacity to execute her autobiography using hyperbole and yet drawing on simplicity to transcend the vulgarity of the approach (The Passion of New Eve, 1). While it takes a while for the reader to understand, Evelyn reproaches her appearance as simply having been false from the real early in the narrative: “All you signified was false! Your existence was only notional; you were a piece of pure mystification, Tristessa” (The Passion of New Eve, 2).

The appearance of Tristessa, therefore, is that of the perfect woman. Comparatively, her reality is that she is simply a man that has been masquerading as a woman in the limelight. Zero’s attack on her causes her exposure in front of all his women, revealing that she had built her image to serve her deepest fantasies as a man (The Passion of New Eve, 124). The presentation of Tristessa through the narrative ponders Jung’s insistence of the difficulty pursuing appearance. The struggle that is the pursuit of absolute appearance involves the demand for “greater capacity for abstraction, more freedom of heart, more vigor of will than man needs if he confines himself to reality; and he must have put this behind him if he wishes to arrive at appearance” (Jung C. G., 1953, 2189). This view prompts appreciation for the degree of conviction Tristessa had accomplished. She was fully committed to making her appearance the reality, explaining her anguish at the stripping of her appearance and the brutal imposition of reality upon her.

Even with the implicit acceptance that appearances can be deceiving, there is still a tendency towards believing appearances without deliberate searches for reality. The distinction between reality and appearances is challenging, specifically because literature itself comes from the imagination of things as they would be (Jackson, 1981, 31). Wood et al elaborate the perspectives such as in Prospero, with many Oriental writers feeling this difficulty distinguishing appearance and reality and its manifestation within the literature as in Shakespeare’s “We are such stuff as dreams are made of” (Wood, 1991, 104). Nevertheless, while efforts may be made to distort the appearance as it manifests, the reality is impossible to change through superficial variations. Consider, for instance, the transformations of Evelyn into New Eve in The Passions of New Eve. He experiences physical surgery, allowing him to bear the female form as well as exposure to the pain of living life as a female. However, the surgery and the consequent therapy, including the sounds of crying babies and the cooing of their mothers, are insufficient to change the gender.

The narrative elaborates the difficulties facing Eve and her transitions. Evelyn states “when I looked in the mirror, I saw Eve; I did not see myself” (The Passion of New Eve, 75). As much as he had transformed, it was impossible for him to acknowledge the new existence that was supposed to be his reality. Instead, his appearance contrasted with the reality of his existence notated by his statement: “the cock in my head, still, twitched at the sight of myself” (The Passion of New Eve, 75). In this capacity, Carter elaborates the difference between gender and sex, with gender being a solely social construct. As the physical form, therefore, sex is presented in Carter’s literature as the appearance. However, gender is a social construct and is the reality that cannot be possibly altered (Wood, McDonnel, Pforedresher, & Fite, 1991, 105).

What then do we make of the position by Jung regarding extreme intelligence and extreme stupidity relative to perceptions of appearance and reality? Jung refers, almost verbatim, to the views of Schiller on the ability to perceive appearance and reality. In the myth, the perception of appearance is positioned as a lower stature than the perception of reality. This, however, receives some criticism in the Jungian interpretation of Schiller. Stupidity, therefore, is regarded as being unable to rise above reality while intelligence is perceived as unable to remain below the truth (Jung C. G., 1953, 2189). The need that people have to remain attached to reality and the attachment of the individual to the real is, consequently, perceived as a weakness. The true enlargement of humanity is through indifference to reality and gaining true interest in appearance (Jung C. G., 1981, 211). This fixation on the appearance, however, in Carter’s The Passion of New Eve, is inadequate as it seems to propagate the tendencies to objectify and subjugate the value of the human body. Consequently, the mythological arc in the story focuses on the movement from appearance to reality for most of the characters. This approach is uncharacteristic due to the possible emphasis on the paradoxical perception of these elements relative to the conventional approach in the Jungian literature.

Admittedly, Carter’s works evoke the need to explore the distinction between reality and appearance beyond the scope that Jung was willing to pursue in his psychoanalytic approaches. Perhaps borrowing slightly from the philosophical perspective at this point is essential to elaborating the complexity of establishing a clear boundary between reality and appearance. Plato explains this complexity as emanating from the possibility of a dual reality:

After an initial critical period during which, with Socrates as a spokesperson, Plato called into question his contemporaries’ opinions and values, he adopted a more dogmatic approach, staking out a certain number of positions in the fields of epistemology, ethics, and ontology. In all these fields, one idea was stressed above all; one of transcendence. It implied, on one hand, the division of reality into two realms: the sensible, the realm of individuals that is continuously changing and the intelligible, the realm of the absolutely immutable. On the other hand, there is the possibility of the distinction within each human being between a mortal body with five senses and an immortal soul with the ability to grasp the unintelligible. (Soccio, 2014, 132)

The implication is that in the world of only the perceptible reality, which is the appearance, change is more palpable and acceptable. However, the world of reality is more immutable and change may be impossible to accomplish (Soccio, 2014, 133). As in The Passion of New Eve, the world of appearance as illustrated most dominantly by Tristessa is devoid of knowledge and governed by the most superficial of occurrences. However, knowledge characterizes the world or reality, making the search for reality a search for the truth. The reality, according to Plato, is eternal and the only thing that changes is appearance (Vickery, 1966, 68). For this reason, appearance is classified as the state of becoming while reality is the world of being. Consequently, we can only have the knowledge of reality, but the appearance is severely limited to opinions (Soccio, 2014, 133). Considering this perspective compels strongly pondering the opinions of several men in The Passion of New Eve regarding the appearances of the women, including that of Tristessa and Leila. Evelyn discovers this limitation in appearance stating:

You were an illusion in a void. You were the living image of the entire Platonic shadow show, an illusion that could fill my own emptiness with marvelous, imaginary things as long as, just so long as, the movie lasted, and then all would vanish. (The Passion of New Eve, 107)

Their knowledge manifests as severely limited, and even incorrect in cases like Zero. However, the reality is transcendent, and can only be achieved through aggressive exploration such as in the attack on Tristessa. The aspect makes reality superior to appearance, even where it takes extensive effort to transform and accept appearance beyond the constraints of human intelligence.

While perceptions and fantasy most clearly demonstrate the variations of appearance and reality, fantasy also plays a significant role in quests and rebirths. Even more manifest is the interrelationship in the themes, including with the transition from appearance to reality necessitating the journey of the hero and the transformation that occurs in the form of rebirth. As such, the exploration of the additional themes in the course of this study is focused on this possibility of transient conditions even in a world dominated by constant ideals. Jacqueline Rose articulates the notions of Freud in the effort of analyzing the constitutive relation that exists between fantasy and the structure of national identities. In her views, she articulates that:

Fantasy is not … antagonistic to social reality; it is its precondition or psychic glue … you don’t have to buy into Freud’s account of hidden guilt to recognize the force in the real world of the unconscious dreams of nations … there is no way of understanding political identities and destinies without letting fantasy into the frame. More, than fantasy – far from being the antagonist of the public, social, being – plays a central constitutive role in the modern world of states and nations. (Jackson, 1981, 3-4)

Carter’s use of Marianne as the protagonist in Heroes and Villains illustrates the quest archetype, articulating her journey of learning and self-discovery. While the Gothic quest is often more external, featuring physical struggles and transformations along the way, its manifestation in Carter’s Heroes and Villains is subsidiary to the actual spiritual journey into a place of self-realization. Physically, the story presents Marianne’s movement from the Professor-land to the Barbarians, allowing her delving into the unconscious and articulating to her a new form of reality that the pressures of civilization had managed to suppress. Lopez comments that this journey as presented in Carter’s text has the right traveler, considering the status of the woman as the expert in the unconscious (Lopez, 2007, 108). She relinquishes any romantic notions she held of the Barbarians during her time in the white tower after Jewel rapes her (Heroes and Villains, 52). Her perceptions of herself also escalate, giving her the courage to pursue power relentlessly and eventually assume rule after the death of Jewel. In the final dialogue with a little boy after an attack, she declares her intention to rule,


Excerpt out of 120 pages


The Archetypes in Angela Carter's novels
"The Passion of New Eve", "Heroes and Villains", "The Sadeian Woman", "Nights at the Circus" and "The Magic Toyshop"
Cairo University
English Literature
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
archetypes, magic, circus, nights, woman, sadeian, villains, heroes, passion, carter, angela, toyshop
Quote paper
Mohammad El Sayed (Author), 2019, The Archetypes in Angela Carter's novels, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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