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Her essay is a re-reading of marriage-as-abduction stories that helps us understand why these contemporary heroines don’t intervene to save themselves.
it is important to preserve our cultural memory of this particular story and to understand exactly what is at stake in it.” Tatar asks us to look beyond Pierrault’s sanitized version, to consider this species of tale as a whole.
The narrative that emerges in these stories is not, after all, one that merely reaffirms cultural anxieties but that proposes a way through and out of them.
He warns her never, under any circumstances, to open that door.
Of course the moment he’s gone she opens it, and sees his previous wives, dismembered, murdered and in various stages of decomposition.
As Batuman points out, some, like ’s Amy even try to stave off disaster by heading it off at the pass, sort of like saying a baby is super-ugly to try to avoid the supposed curses that will fall on it if you praise its beauty to the stars.
Batuman writes that Amy, who “stages fake rape scenes,” “doesn’t invent abuse so much as anticipate it.” The narrative Batuman illuminates in her analysis of can be further understood through its parallels in the classic fairy tale, Bluebeard.Not knowing what has happened to her sisters, the young bride opens the forbidden door and sees their decapitated bodies.She places their heads back on their bodies, and through some charm or other, restores them to life.Our roles are endlessly complex, as daughter, writer, teacher, friend, and they are constantly recombining to give us a sense of ourselves as rich and complex.But despite these achievements, Batuman argues, American culture still views marriage as a woman’s “crowning success,” revealing that “their carefully created and manicured identities were never the point.” The problems that arise when we construct identity around talent and success deserve more attention, but the point here is that marriage itself is not the problem; treating marriage (any marriage, even a terrible one) as identity is.It concentrates meaning in the social value, rather than the practice of marriage and oversimplifies identity, regressing back to a traditional idea of identity as something intrinsic and static rather than something at least partly performative, fluid, something over which we have at least a modicum of control.Marriage becomes the grand poo-bah of selfhood, eclipsing the fact that marriage is not “self” but an evolving state of being.In this way, contemporary depictions of marriage as an abduction reflect ancient fears. All key themes in the contemporary narratives of marriage Batuman is responding to.As Tatar explains, “Anxious fantasies about sex and marriage would hardly be surprising in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe, where women married at a relatively young age, where the mortality rate for women in childbirth was high, and where a move away from home might rightly be charged with fears about isolation, violence, abuse, and marital estrangement.” Isolation. Tatar argues that “while it is tempting to promote stories that stage the joys of heterosexual romantic unions and to banish grisly stories about murderous husbands…A gorgeous girl, the daughter, usually, of an undistinguished but wealthy merchant, falls for a handsome, charming stranger.He proposes, but by the day before the wedding she is troubled that she still knows nothing about him, and has never seen his Mc Mansion, er, his castle.