In literature, the angel transformed from a woman of Heavenly virtue to a woman who does housekeeping, smiles, and waves. Goethe literally describes the angel of the house as, “a life whose story cannot be told as there is no story” (815). The angel has no life of her own, and instead lets people with lives use her and then leave…but she doesn’t mind, because she’s an angel. How lovely.
The monster is the woman who does not conform to the selfless, actionless, spineless female role. She is cunning, manipulative, and she fights. The monster is therefore characterized as being really disgusting looking, and mainly looking like a woman up top and a monster below the waist. The sexuality of a woman is only acceptable when it is to selflessly please her man and bear children — the moment she starts to enjoy it?
I think the dynamic between angel and monster is similar to that of heimlich and unheimlich in the way that it develops and transitions. “That is, precisely because a woman is denied the autonomy…she is not only excluded from culture…but she also becomes herself an embodiment of just those extremes of mysterious and intransigent Otherness which culture confronts with worship or fear, love or loathing” (814). By not allowing women to partake in common culture, she becomes a sort of mystery to those who are involved in culture. No one knows what to think about women, or more importantly what women think, because they never give her the chance to express herself. As a result, they can either transform her mysterious, unknown image into a kind of Utopian ideal, or they can shape her into a dangerous creature who harbors everything bad with the world. They isolate women to make them perfect angels, but once they realize they know nothing about women, they turn women into monsters.
On the same note, the angel is an angel because she experiences everything like everyone does, but she does not let it affect her and her mission to be quiet and proper. She is able to put on a smile and give advice when really, she might not have the faintest idea what is going on. “The fact that the angel-woman manipulates her domestic/mystical sphere in order to ensure the well-being of those entrusted to her care reveals that she can manipulate; she can scheme; she can plot” (818). The woman unintentionally manipulates the energy and feelings of others with her own “angelic” actions, which only proves that she is capable of manipulating, lying, and acting without her husband’s command or permission. If she has to manipulate the information in order to respond appropriately, as opposed to just responding appropriately off the bat, doesn’t that mean she does not possess the qualities of a genuine angelic nature?
Gilbert and Gubar also discuss how the angel transforms into an Angel of Death. “But if, as nurse and comforter, spirit-guide and mystical messenger, a woman ruled the dying and the dead, might not even her admirers sometimes fear that, besides dying or easing death, she could bring death? As Welsh puts it, ‘The power of an angel to save implies, even while it denies, the power of death,’” (818). The woman takes care of those near death, so technically speaking, she can choose whether to help someone live or let them die. At that point, she is the most powerful person in the house, yet at that point in time everyone neglected to acknowledge the type of power and responsibility she had.
This type of woman, the Angel yet Angel of Death, reminds me of Margaret White, the mom in Carrie. Towards the end of the movie, Carrie comes home from the prom, removes her chest-baring prom dress, and bathes off the pig’s blood. Margaret strokes Carrie’s hair and coos to her, until she reaches for the knife she stashed and stabs Carrie. She proceeds to chase Carrie around the house with the knife until Carrie uses her telekinetic powers to fling knives and other sharp objects at Margaret, unintentionally crucifying her so she replicates the statue of Jesus they have in their house
Carrie’s mom reminds me of an angel who transformed into an Angel of Death or a monster. The whole movie, she shames Carrie about her boobs, her period, and having sex (even though Carrie is literally a virgin) while claiming she is protecting Carrie from sin. Margaret tries to live as a virtuous angel in the eyes of the Lord, guiding her daughter to the path of righteousness. When she fails to do so, she uses the power she has as Carrie’s life-giver to become her death-bringer. Carrie’s mom, who may have once been an angel, uses her angelic power and responsibility to become the Angel of Death.