50 pages 1 hour read

Angela Carter

Nights at the Circus

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1984

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Part 1, Chapters 1-5Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “London”

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

Jack Walser is an investigative journalist seeking a scoop on Sophie Fevvers, an aerialist in Colonel Kearney’s traveling circus renowned for her beauty and skill—and for the fact that she has a pair of colorful wings on her back, which she claims are genuine. She is an object of awe and admiration in the public eye; they call her “Helen of the High Wire” and “The Cockney Venus,” and she is heralded by the slogan “Is she fact or is she fiction?” Walser thinks that it’s just an act to draw audiences, and he intends to unearth the truth of the matter. Walser interviews Fevvers in her dressing room after that night’s performance in London while her foster mother, Lizzie, helps her clean up. Fevvers is vulgar and boisterous and makes Walser uncomfortable with her lack of decorum; however, he cannot deny that there is something odd about Fevvers and Lizzie. Fevvers begins the story of her personal history with the revelation that she was “hatched” when she was born.