Religious Influence on the Expression of Violence in Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves”
In Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” Carter manipulates the original context of “Little Red Riding Hood” thereby sharing a contemporary perspective that exemplifies the oppressive, religious morals of classic fairy tales. The gruesome violence emphasizes the message within the text that focuses on embracing natural human instincts, as opposed to the influence of religious doctrine. The character of the wolf is a consistent symbol of anti-Christian philosophy throughout the story; a personified temptation to leave Christian principles behind. The fear associated with straying from the forest path, symbolizes the fear of straying from Christian teachings. The merciless violence endured by the grandmother differs greatly from her granddaughter’s encounter with the wolf, suggesting a futile reliance on religion in contrast to trusting natural human instinct. The overall representation of violence in “The Company of Wolves” makes a savage mockery of religious doctrine, while also emphasizing the empowerment that comes from disregarding religious teachings and embracing the instinctive qualities of human nature, which in the end, serves to ensure survival.
The wolves Carter describes in this story are “carnivore incarnate” (47), possessing an innate evil so terrifying, that the sound of its howl is “in itself a murdering” (47). As though colluding with the Devil, “there’s an ointment the Devil gives you that turns you into a wolf the minute you rub it on” (49), the wolf symbolizes anti-Christian philosophy. He acts as a physical temptation to abandon religious doctrine and trust instinct as a veritable moral compass. Christmas day is noted as the wolves’ birthday, further suggesting that this character is associated with the Anti-Christ. The simultaneous celebration of both Jesus Christ and murderous carnivores reflects a blatant disrespect towards the most celebrated day of the liturgical calendar. The wolf’s lifespan being seven years holds significance, as, in the Bible, the number seven signifies spiritual perfection, and it is a number connected to many works of God (biblestudy.org). This detail further portrays the wolf as an anti-Christian figure, as it mocks the religious significance denoted to the number seven, designating spiritual perfection to a carnivorous creature. The wolf’s victims further portray heathenish behaviour, intensified by brute violence. For example, Carter briefly writes about “a mad old man who used to live by himself… halfway up the mountain and sing to Jesus all day” (48) who was eaten by a wolf. The grandmother, whom was also eaten, was “a pious old woman” (51) who kept her “Bible for company (51). In meeting with the wolf, the characters were faced with physical threats to leave religious principles behind, in order to survive. The author’s inclusion of the detail that the mad man lived by himself, halfway...