Melchior and Peregrine can almost be places side by side and seen as an oxymoron when compared to each other. They are diametrically opposed regarding their paternal instincts and priorities in life, even though they are fraternal twins. However, even though their personalities have a large impact on the novel, Angela Carter has ensured that her feminist views are prominent in showing both Mel and Perry as somewhat irresponsible and the cause of many of the female character’s distress.
Dora and Nora perceive Perry as monumental. He is “the size of a warehouse, bigger, the size of a tower block” and as far as he is concerned “life’s a carnival.” This is an aptly appropriate quotation, which Angela Carter has purposefully chosen to write to show clearly how Perry embodies carnivelesque. He not only seems to make their life as enjoyable as possible, but he also seems to always manage to save the day. Chapter five ends with a large culmination in which Peregrine appears spontaneously announcing “Did yez think I was dead?” This is a clear example of how Perry turning up as the spirit of carnival can never be completely discounted, regardless of his presumed location.
Dora and Nora’s relationship with their biological father Melchior contrasts greatly to that with Peregrine. Dora narrates with a very casual style that adds to the idea that even though Nora and herself do love him, they do not take Mel seriously, regardless of his status. “The way that Melchior filled those tights was the snag; Genghis hadn’t gone to all this expenses to that his wife would be upstaged by her co-star’s package.” The way she makes jokes as Mel’s expense is an indication that even though his ambition and his appearance of perfection drive him, he is in actual fact as human and as flawed as everyone else. She does not hesitate to undermine his dignity, just as he has undermined them as his daughters.
One situation that precisely shows the divide between Perry and Mel is the end of chapter two, in which Perry saves Nora, as well as Mel’s gilded crown from the fire. The fact that Mel seems to only care about retrieving his crown, and has no thought to the safety of any of his family member shows his intense and extreme ambition. In fact, he explains to Dora how the crown is worth more to him than “wealth, or fame, or women, or children…”
Before Perry gives Mel his crown, he taunts him by telling him to “Jump for it, if you want it.” This scenario shows the reader not only how much joy Perry must gain from belittling Mel and showing him in his true ruthless form, but also how Perry contrasts to Mel’s uncaring attitude, after all it was Perry who saves Nora from the fire. This is very important to the novel, as it allows the reader to sympathise and understand why Dora and Nora have such unconventional lives, and Mel’s low morals also seems to be the stem of all their problems, such as their distant relationship with their siblings.
Dora and Nora both grow up with Peregrine taking the paternal role. This affects them, as they feel rejected by their father Mel “Us. Unkissed, unwelcome, worse than unacknowledged.” The use of alliteration is a very powerful device, as it emphasises how low their self worth is, as they feel that even though Mel may acknowledge them, he “does not see” them. Perry is aware of this situation, and his anger causes him to diverge into telling Dora and Nora “It is a wise child that knows its father, but wiser yet the father that knows his own child.”
The idea of opposed personalities between Mel and Perry is highlighted at this point in the novel, as the fact that he “hisses” his words shows how upset he is with Mel’s so called naivety, and how wrong he believes that Mel is for rejecting his daughters. It is something that the reader believes he would never do, however towards the end of the novel Perry’s hypocritical nature becomes apparent.
It emerges towards the end of the novel that Perry is Saskia and Imogen’s biological father. This is an important storyline to the novel. My interpretation on the reason why Angela Carter, from the very beginning, had this underlying revelation in mind, was to put forward her feminist beliefs of society. She wanted to show that even though we are living in a male dominated society, it is the women that keep families, the core of a person’s existence, secure and stable.
Mel left Kitty to bring up Dora and Nora, meanwhile Perry who appeared to be the perfect substitute father, was also guilty of producing illegitimate children. However this particular revelation only seems to bring Saskia and Imogen to become closer to their mother, “begging her to forgive and forget,” whilst Perry “was left right out in the cold.” This illustrates clearly Angela’s Carter’s views that mothers are the stronger role models for their children. “Father is a hypothesis, but “mother” is a fact.” The story line progresses to make this simple, but very powerful point. Paternal figures, in particular Mel and Perry, seem to drift in and out of the lives of their children, which make them very unpredictable and unreliable, however a mother is a fact, someone that can’t be relied upon to keep normality a part of their children’s lives.