Nights at the Circus demonstrates many of the contradictions operating within Angela Carter's later work, for while it acts as a superb demonstration of her continuing preference for the kind of narrative games and implausible fictions that characterise postmodernism, Carter also made claims for it as a character-led novel in the nineteenth-century mode. The paradox implicit in such an assertion is condensed within Fewers's final 'Gawd, I fooled you!', a statement which is intended to reveal that the nature of Fewers's con trick is nothing to do with her wings, which by this time have been shown to incontrovertibly exist, but everything to do with her much-vaunted virginity. In the end, it seems, her aura of knowing sexuality is as real as her feathers. However, it is still inescapably the case that Fewers's wings gaining an objective reality within the world of the text does not make them any more plausible, for they cannot help but continue to point towards its status as a fictional construction.
There is thus a clear contradiction involved in attaching conventions associated with the nineteenth-century novel's presentation of character to a text which nevertheless continues Carter's postmodernist tendency to undermine any efforts to uphold the very 'consistency and continuity of the subject'1 upon which such a concept depends. The kind of confusion this can engender is demonstrated in Carter's interview with John Haffenden soon after Nights at the Circus was published, during which she said that, quite apart from the way it acts to round off the plot, Fewers's final triumphal assertion is 'actually a statement about the nature of fiction, about the nature of her narrative'. But when Haffenden attempted to draw from this remark the conclusion that Nights at the Circus therefore ends with 'a kind of gesture towards postmodernism', Carter retorted: