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Angela Carter's 'Black Venus' Part 3

Angela Carter's 'Black Venus' Part 3

Throughout the entire text, Carter uses her subtlety to portray the long-lasting idea of the dichotomy of the Venus and the whore; the concept that women (particularly of a different race) were enchanting and fulfilled the ideals of perfect woman, yet also they had a juxtaposing side. A primary tool Carter uses to display this is intertextuality. For example, she references Goethe's 'Faust'; 'Indeed, the Faust who summoned her from the abyss.' She also includes a direct reference the character 'Mephistophiles; 'He might have been Mephistopiles, for all she cared.' This complete indifference towards someone who is implied to potentially even be like a demon, working for the devil himself, could be Carter inferring the darker side to Jeanne of the dichotomy, as it suggests a lack of morality, apathy towards consequences. This idea is reinforced with the adjective 'satanic' and 'having silent conversations with demons in the flames.' Carter uses this stark, stereotypical image of hell to deliberately evoke the same image within every reader, adding to our subconscious view of Jeanne. By contrast, Hopkinson focuses on the incorporation of a God, who possesses Jeanne's body, but by doing so, seems to free her; I have Jeanne get to her feet... her floating mind, caught by the rhythm.' This more abstract take seems to be more positive towards Jeanne, with less of a focus on the dichotomy; it very much guides the audience to a more sympathetic viewpoint almost instantaneously. Whereas again, I believe that although Carter's narrative is in some ways more straightforward, it is a deceptive simplicity that has many things underlying for the reader to discover and learn from.

Overall, Carter does demonstrate Jeanne in a positive light, as the 'Venus,' by constantly evoking sympathy towards her, even after a negative picture has been drawn; 'She was surprised to find out how much she was worth.' This statement in particular is incredibly powerful to its poignant nature; yes, it is on the surface, about monetary value, but on another level, it is the realisation of Jeanne, that she has intrinsic value, something which resonates with any audience, as everyone desires to be valued. Due to the fact that Carter ends with this positive shift, stating Jeanne to have died in 'extreme old age,' and having described her as being 'stately,' implies that this is the resounding belief possessed by Carter.

Ultimately, I think Carter's 'Black Venus' is a very successful work. She incorporates another author, and is initially presenting a biased view, that can later be seen to be no more than a facade. The semantic theme of animals, the interetxtual and historical references, even such a condemning one as 'its walnut table off which the Borgias served poisons,' only serve to conflict the reader, especially when counter-balanced with a positive statement afterwards. The packed description throughout the prose is itself very poetic, perhaps harking to Baudelaire's own poetry, as indeed he described Jeanne as a 'snake' among other things within his poetry. In this way, Carter has almost written a form or meta-poetry, which with such emotion, constantly shifts our perceptions and leaves us wanting to read more in order to establish a 'truth.' And therefore, by not revealing much in the way of Baudelaire himself, he remains an enigmatic figure, untarnished by Carter's portrayal. Alongside this, Carter dispels the Venus and Whore dichotomy by making Jeanne a likeable, relatable character, and furthermore, casts away any prejudices we may have as a society today about people in a similar situation. As such, I believe Carter's piece to be a profound piece that is not only interesting to read, but challenges us as an audience. 


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