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Literature / The Magic Toyshop

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The Magic Toyshop is a British novel written by Angela Carter in 1967.

The story follows Melanie as she and her younger brother and sister are suddenly orphaned when their parents perished in a plane crash over the Grand Canyon, and had to move far away to London to live under the guardianship of the bullish and oppressive Uncle Philip, a man they don't know too well in childhood who operates a toyshop of peculiar quality. Living with him are his wife, Margaret (who doesn't speak, has been badly mistreated by her husband and has to write notes to communicate to them), and her younger brothers Francie and Finn.

Throughout her stay in her uncle's home, Melanie undergoes a growing awareness of herself, her environment and her sexuality.

A Television Movie was made in 1987, with Carter adapting her own work.


The Magic Toyshop contains the following examples:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Melanie and Finn
  • Bad Bedroom, Bad Life: The bedrooms Melanie and her siblings are given aren't the warmest places to be sleeping in.
  • Big "YES!": Francie rejoices greatly when he hears Finn destroyed the swan last night.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Melanie and Finn escaped the fire, but the house and toyshop is burned to the ground, the fate of Margaret, Francie and Victoria unknown.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Margaret and Francie are said to have been in an incestuous relationship.
  • Domestic Abuse: Uncle Philip is abusive to Margaret and her brothers physically, emotionally, and financially.
  • Evil Uncle: Uncle Philip
  • Fat Bastard: Uncle Philip, again.
  • Financial Abuse: Uncle Philip financially abuses Margaret and her brothers by not allowing them to have any share of his money whatsoever.
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  • First Kiss: Received by Melanie from Finn in the ruined pleasure house, though it could double as an Awkward Kiss because Melanie didn't expect it.
  • House Fire: Instigated by Philip in a fit of rage not long after coming home to discover rebellion in the house and his wife's infidelity.
  • Innocence Lost: Melanie and her younger siblings lost their parents to a plane crash.
  • Liquid Courage: Finn drank some alcohol to give him the guts to destroy the puppet swan as revenge for Melanie's theater ordeal by Philip's hand.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: Melanie has this when she realizes she actually has feelings for Finn, which he shares a similar sentiment.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Finn realizes that he had destroyed the puppet swan after the alcohol wore off.
  • My God, You Are Serious: When Finn informs Melanie of Philip's preference in what women should wear, she thought he was kidding. He wasn't.
  • Oh, Crap!: Finn has this moment when, upon hearing violent noises downstairs, he realizes Uncle Philip had returned home.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Downplayed. Finn was tempted to have sex with Melanie while practicing for the play Leda and the Swan, but he doesn't go through with it due to fearing Philip told him to do so.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: Actually a peephole in the wall, but it counts. Finn used this to spy on Melanie, but not for perverted reasons.
  • Reclusive Artist: Uncle Philip, but not a friendly case. His toys are often leaning in Uncanny Valley, he doesn't like giving his shop publicity, and he refuses to take checks instead of cash as payment for his toys. He even operates Puppet Shows for his own pleasure rather than publicly.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: Melanie had been gifted one once with an Uncanny Valley design of her face. It scared her enough her parents got rid of it in belief Philip made it out of malice.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Gender flipped; Finn gives himself a decent cleanup as part of his celebrating Uncle Philip's absence.
  • Straw Misogynist: Philip thinks women in his house should wear only dresses or skirts and prefers them silent, according to Finn.
  • Suddenly Speaking: The last time Aunt Margaret is seen, she vocally urges Melanie and Finn to escape.
  • The Voiceless: Aunt Margaret. At the end, though...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We don't know the fate of Jonathon or Victoria.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Philip slaps Melanie for ruining his show.


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