According to Barry (2017), the structuralists use scientific methods to analyze a literary work. They look into the conventions of the genre, the history or different forms of art (including other literature) that the literary work refers to. They think that there will be an absolute answer in what the literature wants to tell the audience, if we study close and careful enough on the context. In this essay, we will first look at the background in which The Werewolf is set (the story Little Red Riding Hood), and we will analyze the message of the story by looking at how The Werewolf is different from it.
The original story
The story is built on the famously-known European tale, Little Red Riding Hood, in which a girl, while going to her grandmother’s house, encountered a wolf. In the story, she told the wolf where she is going to. The wolf headed to grandmother’s house before the girl, swallowed the grandmother, and waited for the girl to appear. Although the girl noticed something strange with ‘the grandmother’ outlook, she could not avoid the fate of being eaten by the wolf. The story ends here, in the earliest known printed version by Charles Perrault (Wikipedia, 2019b).
Differences from the original story – Added Festivals
Some additional details are added in this story. For example, the myth that “a blue-eyed child born feet first on the night of St John’s Eve will have second sight” (Carter, 2006, p. 147-148). St John’s Eve is the day before the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist, and is celebrated on 23rd June during sunset, during which people will start bonfires in order to turn evil spirits and witches away (Wikipedia, 2019c). Coinciding with the summer solstice, most of Europe is hot by this time of year, and the “northern country” indicated at the beginning of the short story, may be referring to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Iceland, Faroe Islands or Greenland, and probably outside the polar circle, because there is no night during this time of year in the polar region and “the night of St John’s Eve” will become invalid (Carter, 2006, p. 147-148).
Another detail, very similar to the previous one, mentioned, is that on Walpurgisnacht “the Devil holds picnics in the graveyards and invites the witches”. They will then “dig up fresh corpses” and “eat them” (Carter, 2006, p. 147-148). Walpurgisnacht is the day before the feast day of Saint Walpurga, and is celebrated on the night of 30th April, during which, again, people will start bonfires in order to turn evil spirits and witches away. Northern countries that celebrate Walpurgisnacht include Norway, Finland and Sweden and the story should have been based on one of these countries (Wikipedia, 2019d). The original story did not mention these two details. In this story, there is a possibility that the day the girl visiting her grandmother was probably on either at the night of St John’s Eve or during Walpurgisnacht, or otherwise, the villagers may not have believed in the girl’s words that the dead grandmother was in fact possessed by a wolf, that has some links with evil spirits or some kind of witches. If the villagers have been less superstitious, they would not have helped a criminal to “prosper” (Carter, 2006, p.148-149).
Differences from the original story – Opposite ending
The ending of this story does not result in the girl’s death, contrasting with the original version of the story. The girl at the end chopped the wolf’s paw and killed her possessed grandma, and the result of that was “she prospered” (Carter, 2006, p.148-149). Angela Carter, as a feminist writer, probably tried to rewrite the original misogynic version of story to express messages that are commonly expressed during the second-wave feminism, as the story was published in 1979 (Wikipedia, 2019a). The second wave of feminism, unlike the first wave, focuses instead on the ideological stereotypes behind the oppression of females, rather than fighting for rights on the surface such as voting rights (Burkett & Brunell, 2019). Marina Warner (as cited in Wikipedia, 2019a) suggests that the collection of stories, The Bloody Chamber, which includes this story was about “desire and its destruction, the self-immolation of women, how women collude and connive with their condition of enslavement”. Not only men deserve a strong image as a warrior, but so does women and girls. It sends a message that portrayals of weak women and girls, such as that of the original version of the story, in which the girl was so naïve to believe in the wolf’s apparent lies and was easily eaten, should be condemned, as these kind of literature would only enhance the inequality between men and women.