Bluebeard, gruesome fairy tale first recorded by Charles Perrault in 1697, and translated into English in 1729. . . . . The story was a favourite of CD's, and is frequently alluded to in his writings. The story of Captain Murderer in "Nurse's Stories" (UT) is a variant on the theme. BH 64; BR 41; CS 4, 8, 15; HT i 15; MED 13; OMF iv II; PP 20. [N. Bentley, M. Slater, and N. Burgis, The Dickens Index, p. 26]

1. Given the description of Bluebeard in the opening paragraph of Perrault's cautionary tale and his behaviour throughout the story, which character in Hard Times does he more closely resemble, Thomas Gradgrind or Josiah Bounderby? Explain your reasoning.

2. Compare the nature of the mysteries surrounding Bounderby and Bluebeard.

3. The usual moral of such cautionary tales from earlier eras is "Curiosity killed the cat ": how is the moral of Perrault's "Bluebeard" quite different?

4. One of the chief collections of European fairytales in Perrault's Contes de ma Mère l'Oye, in which the "Eastern" tale of "Bluebeard" appears. Why is it more accurately labelled a "cautionary" or "Eastern tale" rather than a "fairytale"? What standard "pattern" of the fairytale, however, occurs in the story?

5. The term "deus ex machina" means the writer's or story-teller's utilizing the unexpected and improbable incident to set matters right, such as having a supernatural being intervene just in the nick of time to preserve the life of the protagonist. To what extent is the term appropriate to the rescue of Perrault's protagonist?

6. The plot hinges on a number of coincidences and improbabilities: suggest three.

The Exercises

  1. Introduction
  2. A New Critical Approach
  3. The Textual-Biographical Approach
  4. The New Historicist Contextual Approach
  5. Cinematic Adaptation and Illustration
  6. Close-Reading a Passage

Victorian Web Charles Dickens Hard Times

Last modified 16 January 2004

Last modified 8 June 2007