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Commentary and Analysis of “Puss-in-Boots” from Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber



While at first it seems slightly strange having a story for adults told by a cat, it is this voice in “Puss-in-Boots” that adds to the comedy of the tale. Carter shows us, through using Puss as the narrator, that he is the predominant character, despite being a cat, and despite the fact that the love quest central to the story’s subject is between his owner and Signora Panteleone. Puss demands our attention by not only being the voice of the story, but also making it as if we are listening to this story as he is putting the pieces of it together in his head by including his thoughts and humour. This in a way adds humanity to the character of Puss, in that it makes him seem more human and so we can relate to him more. He is not just a pet that gets fed and purrs occasionally, it is Puss that would ‘pilfer the market for breakfast [and] cast his eye over any hand of cards’ in the gaming salons, ensuring his master a win. It is Puss that helps his master to first see Signora Panteleone, and then finds a way for them to be together. We as readers are, through the use of first person narrative, let into Puss’ secret thoughts that the other characters do not know – not so much dramatic irony as an exclusion on their part – which adds to the comedy; for instance his thought of ‘I spear a falling fragment with a claw. Dear God, he’s took to writing poetry.’ makes the reader laugh as the hilarity of a cat commenting on the hopelessness of a love struck human hits them.

Puss’ voice also adds to this comedic effect, as it changes between the elaborate raconteur and a crude bluntness:

‘His hand, then, trembling, upon her bosom; hers initially more hesitant, sequentially more purposeful, upon his breeches. Then their strange trance breaks; that sentimental havering done, I never saw two fall to it with such appetite. As if the whirlwind got into their fingers, they strip each other bare in a twinkling and she falls back on the bed, shows him the target, he displays the dart, scores an instant bullseye. Bravo!’

This in a way adds two voices to the narration, and shows us more about Puss’ character. He likes to think that he is ‘a cat of the world, cosmopolitan, sophisticated’ when really he is a stray taken in by a young cavalry officer, and these two parts of his personality and life are shown in his voice. He affects the elaboration to make himself into the sophisticated cat he sees himself as, but cannot stop himself from slipping into the jokes and innuendo of his true self. He talks of love and fingering in the same pensive but crude way, until he feels the emotion himself and realises its hold over a person.

Characters such as Puss’ master are common enough in fairy tales – the young, poor but handsome man who falls in love with someone above his station – but what we do not usually find is the tale told from his side of the window balcony. We are also told more about his lifestyle than we probably wish to know; the Signora is young and virtuous, and in traditional fairy tales, we are used to the same from the hero, whereas in Carter’s version, Puss regales to us his master’s fondness for making ‘the beast with two backs with every harlot in the city, besides a number of good wives, dutiful daughters, rosy country girls…’. Though Puss senses a ‘neat, smart, dandified air’ about this cavalry officer, the young man becomes so poor that he must pawn his belongings, even his underclothes. While he has the air of the hero about him, this character is mainly used in the story as a way of showing Puss’ talents and ingenuity. It is Puss and Signora Panteleone’s cat Tabs who lay the plans for the lovers to meet and continue their relationship by killing Signor Panteleone. Signora Panteleone shows some strength of character in the end, while Puss’ master remains benign and unassertive throughout. While one could argue that he is so through his love for Signora Panteleone, it is Carter trying to show the difference between the sexes – it is Signora who takes the first step towards Puss’ master during their first encounter, as Puss admits, ‘women, I think, are, of the sexes, the more keenly tuned to the sweet music of their bodies.’ This difference of strength of character is also shown through Puss’ relationship with Tabs; it is she who thinks of his master disguising as a rat-catcher to be able to meet with Signora Panteleone, and who trips Signor Panteleone, leading to his death.

Signora Panteleone is essentially an archetypal character when we are first introduced to her: the young woman wed and then shut away from the world by the rich but miserly old man, who has just one hour a day to look out on the world apart from when she is let out to attend Mass. This character, however, changes as her relationship with Puss’ master does. At first she is shy, and though she takes the first step towards him, she also steps back again, before becoming a ‘more passionate woman’ after they have slept together. When they meet again, she cannot suppress a giggle at seeing him, though her husband lies dead before her, and, with the corpse on the bed, ‘they’re at it, hammer and tongs, down on the carpet’. Signora Panteleone goes from the archetypal maiden needing to be rescued to being a woman who takes the keys from her husband’s ‘sere, cold grip’ to ensure she is in charge of his estate and snaps at the old hag to be quiet, showing her strength of character. In this way, Carter is creating new stories within The Bloody Chamber rather than just re-telling the old ones (something she emphasised clearly); she adds new layers to the characters and gives strength to the females who, before this, languished in towers awaiting a handsome suitor.

While in Perrault’s version of the tale, the subtext is that the right clothes and a fine castle can make a "Marquis of Carabas" out of a miller's son, Carter’s version illustrates that, with the help of a pair of clever cats, characters can transcend their circumstances to become happy – by finding love and releasing the grip of either poverty or the oppressive hold of a miserly dotard husband.
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:iconkibasennin:
kibasennin Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you so much for posting this! it helped me a lot!
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:iconstarrasberry89:
starrasberry89 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012
Oh wow did it? That's so cool, I just posted it here cos I'd forgotten my usb stick haha but glad it helped you :D did you have an essay on it too?

(my lecturer accused me of plagerism because he thought it was 'too good for a first year' so googled it and found it here!)
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:iconkibasennin:
kibasennin Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
did you tell him you posted it there?
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:iconstarrasberry89:
starrasberry89 Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
Yea, I had to sign in to my dA account in front of him to prove it. He looked VERY sheepish after what he had said but I just found it hilarious. It's because I'm a doodler, so he'd see my scribbling and think I wasn't paying attention :)
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