Angela Carter’s short story, “The Kiss”, tells a story of three adults intertwined in a folk tale of love and deception. The narrator begins the tale by describing the Uzbek women in Samarkand. The Uzbek women are described as “…always frowning because they paint a thick, black line straight across their foreheads that takes their eyebrows from one side of their faces to the other without a break. They rim their eyes with kohl. They look startling” (35). The imagery of the women and Samarkand leads the reader to imagine an impoverished and gloomy place. A man from Samarkand named Tamburlaine is away at war, so, his beautiful, clever, and virtuous wife begins to have a mosque built for her husband. Upon receiving word of her husband’s early arrival, she asks the architect to finish the last arch in time for her husband. However, the architect says he will only complete the mosque if Tamburlaine’s wife gives him a kiss. Tamburlaine’s wife attempts to outwit the architect in order to remain faithful to her husband; however, the architect in turn outwits Tamburlaine’s wife. With his point proven, the architect receives a kiss from Tamburlaine’s wife. However, with sinful acts come consequences and when Tamburlaine learns of the kiss he sends executioners after the architect, who then grows wings and flies to Persia to escape.
The architect wins Tamburlaine’s wife’s kiss after he proves to her that love may look the same but always tastes different. After he presents Tamburlaine’s wife in three bowls of what appears to be water, but the last is vodka he tells her, “This vodka and the water both look alike but each tastes quite different…And it is the same with love” (37). The architect proves Tamburlaine’s wife wrong after she attempted a clever argument that women all look different but taste the same. Of course, the architect’s argument pertains to love and convinces Tamburlaine’s wife to give into her true desires.
An obvious theme of Angela Carter’s story, “The Kiss”, is love but also lost promises. The architect and Tamburlaine’s wife fall in love; however, because Tamburlaine’s wife is honorable, she does resist the architect’s passes for some time. It takes the architect quite a bit of convincing to receive his much-desired kiss. The narrator tells the story in a lush and descriptive way, which creates a romanticized tone throughout the tale. Perhaps the most endearing part of the story is Tamburlaine’s wife’s internal struggle between what she truly wants and what she believes is right. The virtuous woman eventually deceives her promises to her husband and surrenders to her longings for the architect.