Edward Buell

Read the first paragraph below or click here to read the entire essay: Edward Buell – Happily Never After

“And they lived happily ever after… the end.” The typical ending to traditional fairytales forces one to wonder, what happens after the wedding bells cease to ring? What if things change and the typically rushed marriages do not pan out, or the spouse you thought you knew was not who you thought they were? The “Bluebeard” tale type presents an unusual fairytale that rarely gets attention because it contrasts the “norm” of the commonplace tale. Bluebeard, a serial murderer, lures maidens with his wealth but fails to conceal his dark past in his chamber of death. Clearly the story takes place after the marriage has occurred, the reader obtains a perspective that is rarely exposed in fairytales and that reveals the implications of the women’s inability to choose a suitor. By looking at the combination of the women’s motives and Bluebeard’s actions, we can see the emphasis in society on wealth and luxury as a precursor to marriage. This can have deadly consequences because the women’s choice of lavish belongings over true love and compatibility, leads to loss of innocence, subordination, and inability to escape demeaning gender roles.

The entire institution of marriage runs counter to female independence. Many women today are aware of this but still buy into the marriage ideal. As Bergoffen explains, men become the guardian of women’s reproductive and professional labors and control sexual relationships to benefit their needs. Therefore, the system of marriage keeps women completely emotionally and physically at the mercy and duty of their male counterpart. Women are destined for marriage while men are destined for much more; men strive for power, wealth, and dominance over others (20). Dismissing women’s dreams in order to make way for male supremacy creates ideals that women are intended to mold themselves into regardless of how much of their self-worth they lose along the way. During the time period of Perrault’s version of Bluebeard’s time, the seventeenth century, women were meant to be seen and not heard. This mentality fueled the patriarchal society and had been present for hundreds of years, dating back to before the creation of this tale type. This ideal was relevant to the time period of the “Bluebeard” tales. During this time period marriages were arranged and dowries were paid to families in exchange for wives, thus objectifying women. Willing or not women entered marriages with no knowledge of the man she was being assigned to for life. These ideals belittle women to mere pieces of meat for males to pick from and devour, Bluebeard’s specialty.

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