Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School

English and Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Sharon Smith


This thesis investigates the feminist revisionism of the Bluebeard fairy tale through a focus on its relationship with the Eden myth. Past studies have examined the remarkable feminism of Bluebeardian literature and history, but this thesis is the first to interrogate the tale’s evolution from and alongside the Eden myth and to argue that the Bluebeard tale’s feminism is exceptional because of its ties to the Eden myth. I argue that the evolution of the intersecting revisionism of the Eden myth and the Bluebeard tale is characterized by the changing morals of the two myths—morals that, depending on the author’s handling, alternately celebrate or condemn misogyny, feminism, Christianity, female curiosity, oppressive structures of heterosexual marriage, female agency, patriarchal power, and the recognition of trauma caused by patriarchal oppression. An examination of the history and content of Edenic and Bluebeardian revisions reveals a persistence in women authors to follow the example of Bluebeard’s wife and to tell their own stories despite the condemnation and oppression of patriarchal Bluebeards who attempt to bury their stories and keep them silent. By first defining the “original” Eden myth as a fusion of three texts—the Book of J, the King James Bible (1611), and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)—I propose the original oral version of the Bluebeard tale was a feminist revision of the Eden myth and that Charles Perrault’s revision of the oral tale into the canonical “Bluebeard” (1697) was a return to the misogynistic morals of the Eden myth. I then interrogate how Charlotte Brontë revised both the Eden and Bluebeard myths in her novel Jane Eyre (1847) according to her unique feminist Christian ideology. Finally, I examine Laura Riding’s “Eve’s Side of It” (1935), Ursula K. Le Guin’s “She Unnames Them” (1985), Luisa Valenzuela’s “The Key” (1993), and Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985), feminist revisions that highlight the symbolic difference between the Garden of Eden and Bluebeard’s castle and reveal the emancipatory potential of the Eden myth and the Bluebeard tale.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Feminism in literature.
Eden in literature.
Bluebeard (Legendary character) -- In literature.
Brontë, Charlotte, 1816-1855. Jane Eyre -- Criticism and interpretation.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright