‘’How important is Carter’s use of symbolism to our understanding of ‘The Snow Child?’’
Carter adapted “The Snow Child” from a Grimm Brothers version of the story. The story is inspired by the fairytale ‘’Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs.’’ In the Brothers Grimm version, the evil queen stepmother asks a hunter to take Snow White into the forest and kill her then after delivering back her lungs and liver. However Angela Carter’s reworked version is an uncomfortable vile fairytale to read. In Carter’s version there is an aristocrat riding through the woods with his beloved wife in the‘’midwinter’’ where it is ‘’invincible and immaculate.’’ The noble man wishes for a girl as beautiful as nature saying ‘’I wish I had a girl as white as snow and as red as blood’’ and ‘’black as that bird’s feather.’’ As soon as he utters the words the child he wished for appears before him. This causes the Countess to explode with jealousy which tempts her to kill the beautiful child. After many attempts the child finally pricks her finger on a rose and dies. The count mourns for a little while and then sexually assaults the dead child who then gradually melts away into nothing. The countess now satisfied regains all that she had lost and the count hands her the rose that killed the girl which she dramatically drops. Angela Carter’s malicious version has the power to shock and disturb the audience.
The short story is written in third person which allows to have a wide range of views. The setting of the story is mainly set in the woods /forests. Forests are known to represent femininity in the eyes of a young man, an unexplored realm full of the unknown. It stands for the unconscious and its mysteries. The forest also has great connection with the symbolism of the mother, it is a place where life thrives similar to how the Count created life with just one impeccable wish.
The countess is a vile and is shown to have many negative traits to her such as jealousy. Her sadistic character immediately makes us the audience astray and dislike her. The countess is prosperous and comfortable in her striking ‘’glittering’’ and ‘’shining’’ black fur which had a touch of scarlet embedded into it. She was dressed rather inappropriately for horse riding, she was dressed to impress with her knee high heeled lavish boots. She was luxuriously dressed in the ‘’pelts of black foxes’’ suggesting that she dressed rather skimpy, proactively and cunningly. The countess also wears a gold diamond brooch (a symbol of her wealth and status) which she had purposely threw into the ‘frozen pond’ beckoning the girl to go fetch it ‘’dive in and fetch it for me.’’ She slyly demanded but to her dismay her husband did not allow the child to go and fetch it saying‘’Is she a fish,to swim in such cold weather?’’ The count assumes that his wife is comparing the ‘snow child’ to a fish in a pond. Some pagan traditions recognised the fish as a feminine symbol of fertility. The ‘’diamond brooch’’ also happens to be a symbol of wealth that reveals to the reader that the Count and Countess are wealthy and of high status in the patriarchal society in which the story is set in.
The Count also is a man of status and wealth and it is seen just by reading his name. Carter a feminist suggests that the Count is actually a cold blooded killer with only bad intentions. At first the Count seems vulnerable and wishes to have a child, this makes us feel sympathy for him. He treats the child well and prevents any harm from occurring to her.
However soon we realise that his intentions were never good but extremely unpleasant and disturbing, perhaps he was mentally unwell or perhaps he was just a sadistic killer? He felt sexual desire towards the young prepossessing girl. He wished not for a child but for the girl of his dreams which he magically receives. From a feminists perspective this may suggests that patriarchy shapes women to dress, act and look a certain type of way simply based on men’s desires. The count even transfers his wife’s clothes on to the young cold girl which is an act of affection. This is also common in society, some men prefer younger spouses.
The snow child is an innocent, naive and obedient young girl with ‘’hair as black’’ as a ravens ‘’feather’’ and lips as ‘’red as blood’’. The girl had skin ‘’as white as snow.’’ The girl was truly beautiful to the Count with her inhumanely perfect features which caused a spark of jealousy to rise in the Countess’s eyes. A ‘’raven’’ is said to be a symbol of bad luck. The raven also happens to be an icon of gothic literature. An example may be in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem called ‘Raven’ (1845) in his poem the raven has a mythic association with death and darkness and all things evil.‘’Blood’’ is associated with death, bloodshed and evil. Red is the color of blood and fire and again is associated with meanings of love, passion, desire. The young girl is also compared to snow.. The literary term ‘’snow’’ has several symbolic meanings, snow is white which could be a symbol of purity and innocence, however snow also conceals things which means it can be deceiving.
The snow child is instructed to pick out a rose from a rose bush, when the snow child obeys the devious Countess she is poisoned by the rose’s thorns and dies. Roses symbolise beauty but also danger hence why they are so ambiguous. The rose is considered a symbol of balance. The beauty of the rose flower expresses promise, hope, and new beginnings. However It is contrasted by menacing thorns symbolizing defense, loss, and thoughtlessness. The tale also ends quite ambiguously the Countess screeches ‘’it bites’’ and immediately drops the rose fearfully. Perhaps the Count handed the rose to the Countess with the intention to harm her? Or maybe the child was nothing but a dream? Carters tale can be interpreted in many different ways due to it’s excellent symbolism which plays an important role in ‘The Snow Child.’