Cinderella and a Doll’s House: Comparing the Role of Dress
The donning of her [dancing] dress has brought about the turning point of her life.
-Barbara Fass Leavy
Dress and outward appearance have historically played a significant role in the plot development of fairy tales. Perhaps the most famous dress in our collective memory is that which was bestowed upon Cinderella by her fairy godmother. A less prevalent dress, though by no means less important, is seen in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Nora’s Italian tarantella costume is in fact functionally similar to Cinderella’s ball gown. Although they are obtained in different ways, and ultimately achieve different ends, dresses in both Cinderella tales and A Doll’s House serve the same purpose of allowing the heroine to transcend beyond the constraints society has placed on her.
In Cinderella stories, elaborate dresses, the presence and absence of them, play a pivotal role in the protagonist’s ability to overcome her hardships, and to achieve her true potential. Elisabeth Pantajja, in her essay Going up in the World: Class in Cinderella, examines the role of clothing as a ‘political tool of the petit-bourgeoisie’ (99). The removal of certain types of clothes, she argues, is representative of removal of social status. Class, and inferred class by clothing, is the crux of the limitations imposed on a Cinderella character. In many versions, Cinderella’s clothes are lost at the beginning of the tale. They took away her beautiful clothes, dressed her in an old grey smock, and gave her some wooden shoes, reads the first scene of the Brothers Grimm version. In “Donkeyskin” the protagonist’s clothes are not forcefully taken from her. Rather circumstances necessitate that she not don them, but instead wear only the old donkey’s skin. In both of these cases the removal of fine clothing is symbolic of demotion. Extending that metaphor to a more general interpretation, it is symbolic of pushing the character out of a realm in which she once belonged. In the case of Cinderella stories, the realm just happens to be that of a higher social order.
In the modern interpretation of the Swan Maiden Tale, A Doll’s House, bodily covering is also initially lost. This is inferred at the beginning of Act II in A Doll’s House when the Nursemaid says I finally found it, the box with the fancy dress costumes (35). Finally, implies that they were being sought, a factor that becomes more relevant when their plot line function is served. Barbara Leavy parallels this brief discovery scene with the point in the Swan Maiden tale when the swan wife discovers her long lost feathers. The fact that the costumes are for a masquerade, not an everyday event, is worthy of note as they thus symbolize entrance into another world that is not the ordinary. That Nora already owned the dress, the feathers per se, indicates that she had once before been part of this other place. Extending the literal imagery of the masquerade to the more abstract realm, one could say that this other place from which she was being held captive, was a world in which she has agency. Unlike Cinderella figures, Nora does not initially realize that she has been held captive in another world. Like the Cinderella figure, though, wearing her special dress facilitates her transcendence of the forces that are in essence holding her captive. The re-discovery, or re-establishment of such clothing is more subtle in the Cinderella tales. In the Brothers Grimm version, beautiful dresses are tossed down from a fairy godmother-esque Hazel tree. In Donkeyskin, as the clothing is never taken away, the re-discovery seems to occur on a weekly basis. She cleaned herself, then opened her chest and first put on the dress of the moon? Perrault writes, this sweet pleasure kept her going from one Sunday to the next (112). Through this rediscovery of her gowns, Donkeyskin prepares for the moment when those dresses will allow her to overcome her lessened social stature. Likewise, the magical appearance of the classic Cinderella’s dress, as well as the re-discovery of the Nora’s Italian costume, fashion transformations themselves, foreshadow the more significant non-physical transformations to come.
How exactly the various dresses allow the characters to break out of their constrained roles is where the two stories diverge. In the Cinderella tales, the protagonist is passive. In the classic tale, it is the prince who takes a proactive role. Grimm’s version tells that She looked so beautiful in the dress of gold that they thought she must be the daughter of a foreign king? The prince approached Cinderella, took her by the hand and danced with her. He didn’t intend to dance with anyone else and never let go of her hand. Whenever anyone else asked her to dance he would say: She is my partner. (119)
There is a direct link between how beautiful the dress made her look, and the prince’s interest in her. The extent to which the prince takes possession of her is important to the story line as it is that feeling of possession, repeatedly asserted throughout the three day wedding affair, which motivates the prince to seek out Cinderella, ultimately bringing her back up the social ladder by marrying her. In Donkeyskin, it is only when the prince sees the princess in her elegant gowns that he is overcome by her beauty, and thus begins his pursuit of her. Though the disclaimer No matter what her dress was like, the beauty of her face, her lovely profile, [etc.] moved him a hundred times more (113) is in the text, it is difficult to discount the fact that she was indeed wearing her special dress when she captured his attention. It is hard to imagine that he would have been equally awestruck had she been wearing her usual donkey skin. In both versions of the Cinderella story, the dress serves a function of capturing attention. This attention capture induces the prince to begin the ultimately successful pursuit of the Cinderella character. Through marriage to the prince Cinderella gains noble status, thus, with direct credit to the dress, moving beyond what was originally her constricting social situation.
Ibsen’s Nora is a much more proactive character than Cinderella though she too uses her festive dress to overcome her social constriction. Unlike the Cinderella characters, the different worlds of social classes are not Nora’s concern. Rather, her differing worlds are separated on the axis of gender. Throughout the play Nora exists in a world distinct from her husband. From the overt closed door of his office, to the money-borrowing secret she harbors from him, the two exist in entirely separate planes. The dress itself is one of the few links their worlds have, and even that is quite tangential. In Act II Nora tells Kristine that Torvald wants her to go to the masquerade as a Neopolitan fishing lass and dance the tarantella, the dance she learned when they were in Italy. Moments after she has Kristine help her mend her costume (40) Torvald enters the room: NORA: No, it was Kristine. She was helping me with my costume. I think it’s going to look very nice?
HELMER: Wasn’t that a good idea of mine, now?
NORA: Wonderful! But wasn’t it also nice of me to let you have your way?
HELMER: Nice of you- because you let you husband have his way? All right you little rogue, I know you didn’t mean it that way? You’ll be wanting to try the costume on I suppose. (40)
The presence of the dress, and its associated power struggles are highlighted briefly in this scene. Torvald had wanted Nora to learn to dance in Italy and also bought the dress for her. What Torvald does not realize, and perhaps even Nora doesn’t realize at this point is the effect the dress and its associated dance will have on their relationship. Even the presence of the dress in discussion has given Nora more agency. Her slip up almost gave Torvald a clue that she knows more than she generally lets on.
Though the audience does not see the actual performance of the dance in costume at the masquerade ball, the recount by Torvald highlights necessary elements and indeed it is the aftermath that is more important than the actual performance. She dances the tarantella² and ³there was wild applause (67) describes Torvald. One can imagine Nora performing the frenzied dance, all the while coming to the realization that she must leave the world she knows. Though it is possible, it is hard to imagine the dance being performed without the elaborate costume. The costume serves to transform Nora to a beautiful vision (67), simultaneously transforming her spirit into one of realization, enlightenment of her situation and what options she has. At the end of Act III, Nora has transformed into a much more serious and straightforward character. She speaks conservatively, often in brief sentences compared to Torvald’s long descriptions of how he is going to save her.
In her book In Search of the Swan Maiden, Leavy examines the power struggle and issue of ownership of the costume. Insofar as all of Nora’s possessions belong to Torvald, they remain in his control? states Leavy (299). They are illustrative of Torvald’s control of Nora, the societal constraints that she must overcome. Torvald’s tries to exercise his control of the clothes, and by extension Nora, when he learns her secret. Take that shall off. Take it off I tell you! (76) Torvald exclaims. But Nora, having danced the tarantella, and even if momentarily, entered a realm other than the doll’s house she knows, has increased her resolve. As the scene progresses, her control over her clothing, as well as her life, increases. When Torvald asks what she is doing, she replies Taking off this fancy dress (78). Torvald is surprised when she is not preparing herself for bed, and she then replies Yes, Torvald, I’ve changed (79). The significance of this statement goes far deeper than changing her dress. In wearing the dress, Nora had an epiphany. She realized that her life was A Doll’s House, and that she didn’t want to live it that way. In removing the dress, she has cast off not only Torvald’s ownership, but also the societal constraints holding her within her contrived world.
Nora’s chronological dress changes, from ordinary to elegant and back to ordinary and her corresponding attitude change indicate that a transformation occurred while wearing the costume. In Leavy’s words, The donning of her dancing dress has brought about the turning point in her life (298) Thus, it was the dress itself that facilitated Nora’s true change, a realization that perhaps never would have occurred had she not performed the special dance in the special dress. Unlike the Cinderella characters, Nora goes back to her original clothes. This difference can be attributed to the differing societal constraints and outcomes. While the Cinderella characters assimilate into another confined realm – high society culture they enter in marriage, Nora is entering into a world unknown, a world presumably free of the confinement and ownership that her costume represented.
When the clock struck midnight in the Cinderella tale, the dress had served its function. It was then the prince’s turn to take action. In A Doll’s house, when the clock struck twelve on the masquerade, Nora’s dress too, had served its purpose. However, it was Nora who took the initiative this time. Her dress, like the Swan Maiden’s feathers, had reminded her of her own world, her own agency and the realm outside of the dollhouse. Though Cinderella and Nora started in different situations, were victims of different societal constraints, and had quite different ends to their stories, for both it was a dress that provided a window of opportunity, a possibility for transcendence beyond their initial circumstances. Perhaps, though, just perhaps both lived happily ever after.
A Modern Interpretation of Cinderella’s Character
Strength cannot be universally defined. It is, in its truest form, an individualized characteristic. Some perceive strength as staying true to oneself and refusing to bend to the will of another while others may view it as taking in stride what ambles down the path of life with grace and dignity. The struggle for women to be viewed by society as strong, independent beings has existed from the beginning of time, but has recently begun to evolve. Both Danielle of Ever After and Vivian of Pretty Woman bring to life a modernistic air to the classic Cinderella story. Vivian of Pretty Woman portrays a better, more modern Cinderella through her self-assurance, independence, and emotional strength than does Danielle of Ever After.
The Cinderella story truly comes to life in Ever After, focused on Danielle de Barbarac. Danielle’s mother passes while she is a child, and her father passes shortly after introducing her stepmother and stepsisters, leaving her orphaned and under the care of her “wicked” stepmother. As she grows older she learns to accept her position as being below those of her stepsisters, Marguerite and Jacqueline. Having fallen from her title of nobility, she resigns to being no more than a scullery maid. On more than one occasion she stands up to Prince Henry, heir to the throne of France, dressed in clothes of a higher class than her own, a crime punishable by beatings. When he finally asks her identity, she panics and gives him the name of her deceased mother, one of a noble family. Throughout the duration of their romantic journey together, she conceals her truly average identity in fear of being rejected for her social standing. At a grandiose ball in the Prince’s royal gardens, Danielle is forced by her stepmother to reveal her true identity. Prince Henry royally rejects her in front of the entire kingdom, causing a deplorable display of royal power. In the end, Prince Henry is brought to his wits and runs to save his maiden to find that she has already saved herself. Through a heart-wrenching apology, the two find their “happily ever after”, despite the wretched journey they took to stumble upon it.
Vivian Ward of Pretty Woman gives a raw depiction of the modern Cinderella. In true rags to riches fashion, Vivian, a prostitute, meets her match with the rich Edward Lewis. In a twist of fate, the two end up spending a week together in Lewis’ hotel suite. Throughout the course of the week, Vivian explores the luxurious world in which Edward lives. She is by no means polished or put together like the other people in Edward’s life, but there is something to be said for her fortitude in attempting to accustom herself to their ways. She learns to be a sophisticated, modern woman while still holding true to herself. After all is said and done, Vivian returns to her motel in Hollywood to pursue her next life endeavor, while Edward watches her leave. Not being able to stand seeing her go, Edward is compelled to pursue her and “save” her from the life she has been leading. In their own way, Edward and Vivian find their “happily ever after” together, accepting one another for who they truly are. At the end of each story lies true acceptance, but the paths taken are significantly different between the two. Madonna Kolbenschlag, a feminist critic of fairy tales, writes,”She [Cinderella] wants to be ‘chosen’ for herself in her natural state, rather than because of a splendid appearance wrought by magic” (Kolbenschlag 537). Disney’s characterization fell shy of this mark. Eventually, Prince Charming found out who she was, but she never directly told him, implying a sort of shame. Vivian never once hides from who she is. When she first meets Edward, she presents herself as she truly lives without trying to create a new image to impress him. Vivian holds steadfast in her personality while still trying out Edward’s lifestyle. She gets accustomed to his way of life, but is able to return to her own after all is said and done.
Danielle presents herself to Prince Henry as her mother, who came from a noble family. It isn’t until the very end of Ever After that Danielle reveals her true identity. She finds herself at the Prince’s feet, feeling as if she truly belonged at the bottom of the social caste. Danielle and Disney’s Cinderella share the same twinge of guilt over their backgrounds, whereas Vivian accepts herself as she truly is. The distinct difference in strength here lies within the methods of coming-to-self between the two women. While Vivian is forthright in sharing her identity, Danielle guises Prince Henry into believing a glamified ruse of who she could have been without the death of her father. Throughout women’s history, independence is one of the core factors of how strength is perceived. While Danielle gives off a strong sense of independence through saving herself from her troubles, Vivian portrays independence with a stronger presence. In Pretty Woman, Edward and Vivian get into an argument in which Vivian had, “never felt cheaper” (Pretty Woman). Vivian packed her belongings and stormed toward the door, leaving behind all of Edward’s money on purpose. This showed her deep understanding that she was worth more than her pay. It also showed Edward that she did not need his money to live on. If it meant being treated poorly, his money meant nothing to her. Her action showed him that his actions were more derogatory than being a prostitute in itself.
Jane Yolen, author of children’s books, describes this distinct difference between Danielle and Vivian with, “[Cinderella] is a sorry excuse for a heroine, pitiable and useless” (Yolen 544). Danielle could have asserted her independence in ways stronger than those in which she did. While still making a valiant effort, her attempts at independence ended up being spoiled by her poor upbringing. Danielle rescues herself from the grasp of the evil Monsieur Le Pieu and storms out his castle in triumph only to find Prince Henry, come to rescue her. She asks in a mocking manner,“You have come to rescue me?” (Ever After). After his truly heartfelt apology, Danielle finds herself weak in the knees at his will, and her independence collapses into shambles, along with her emotions. Emotions are some of the biggest traits of weakness that can be seen in the Disney “Cinderella”. She relies on her helpful animal friends to keep her hopes up, rather than being realistic. Vivian’s strong characterization comes into play once more in the scene in which she kisses Edward on the mouth. While Kit, her roommate, warns against kissing on the mouth due to emotional attachment, this is one of Vivian’s strongest moments. While Vivian is making herself vulnerable to Edward, she is also strengthening herself by allowing him in. She is essentially taking control, giving Edward the power to break her, but also receiving the power to break Edward. Unlike Vivian, Danielle never finds this opportunity. Her emotions are generally dependent upon her surroundings. In one of the final scenes, Danielle becomes upset with her stepmother for never having loved her as a child. Danielle cries out in anguish, “You are the only mother I have ever known. Was there ever a time, even in its smallest measurement, that you loved me at all?” (Ever After). Bruno Bettelheim, an expert in sibling rivalry, writes, “The child fears that… he is thought of little by his parents, or feels rejected by them” (Bettelheim 280). Danielle evidenced this by feeling betrayed by her stepmother’s inherent love for her own daughters more than Danielle. The strength that she lacks is that of control over her own emotions. To be successful in the already-vulnerable position in which she lies, one must assert control over that which can be controlled.
Strength will never be a well-agreed upon subject within society, containing too many facets to be defined by one simple phrase. It is a complex entity of its own separate affairs, and to confine it to one definition would be shameful. Danielle of Ever After and Vivian of Pretty Woman both show traits of a strong, modernized Cinderella. However, Vivian’s intricate characterization shows her to be a better icon than Danielle for the modern woman on the indefinite conquest for strength.
A Feminist Interpretation of Tanith Lee’s “When the Clock Strikes”
The earliest fairy tales were published in a patriarchal society where women had little rights and played a subordinate role, raised to bow to male authority. As a result, most traditional fairy tales tend to reflect the norms of such a society. Even some popular modern versions still undermine female authority by presenting women who are objectified and easily pitted against each other due to petty reasons. In “Feminism and Fairy Tales,” Karen Rowe discusses the anti-feminist sentiments of fairy tales and explains the importance of strong female characters. We must ask, is it even possible to retell “Cinderella” in a feminist manner? In her modern retelling “When The Clock Strikes” which was written in 1983, Tanith Lee deals with Cinderella’s anti-feminist history in complex ways. Lee’s story revolves around a young girl called ‘Ashella’ who practices dark magic, taught to her by her mother, and performs ‘evil’ tasks yet still ends up victorious. It might seem, at first, that Lee’s tale which “bears witness against women” goes along with Rowe’s conclusion that “the liberation of the female psyche has not matured with sufficient strength” (358) to strongly challenge the patriarchal society. However, I argue that despite expectations of passive female characters Lee’s fairy tale defy the norms by presenting ‘evil’ yet powerful female characters.
While most Cinderella tales barely mention the mother, “When The Clock Strikes” presents Ashella’s mother with an irreplaceable role. According to Marina Warner, in most “familiar retellings” of Cinderella “the heroine’s mother no longer plays a part” (205). This quote refers to how well-known fairy tales often portray a father-daughter bond while forgetting to involve the natural mother. Warner explains the cultural reason for removal of mothers by stating that writers could not produce material where maternal figures are ambivalent or dangerous since it might adversely affect the audience, who were predominantly children. This argument is directed towards the popular versions of Cinderella, but Lee’s retelling is related to the older versions where mothers are significant. In contrast to Warner’s claims, Rowe argues that “mothers enforce their daughter’s conformity” (349), where the noun ‘conformity’ refers to one’s compliance with the set standards and regulations. Rowe implies that the importance of a mother-daughter connection has been undermined in fairy tales, and the extent of influence that these relationships can have is demonstrated in Lee’s work. Ashella is her mother’s helper and has been “recruited into her service nearly as soon as the infant could walk” (Lee, 119). The use of ‘infant’ instead of child is interesting since it emphasizes Ashella’s innocence and conveys how malleable she was when her mother started to teach her black magic. Additionally, Lee utilises the verb “recruited”, making it seem as though Ashella was being called into military service where supervisors or commanding officers shape the soldiers’ conformity, and her mother occupies the role of the supervisor. Also, she swore Ashella “to the fellowship of Hell” (Lee, 120), an event which dictates her actions throughout the story. Ashella’s mother, despite her evil nature, depicts strength and promotes feminist sentiments because, even though she was killed, she stood up for her beliefs and by staying true to her faith, she prevails over the patriarchy. Therefore, the utilisation of a maternal character who is powerful and dangerous defy norms while promoting strong female influences.
Despite their opposing views on the role of mothers, both Warner and Rowe agree that the stepmother is an embodiment of female rivalry. Warner states that the second wife “often found herself and her children in competition” (213) and Rowe’s essay supports this claim by stating that the stepmother embodies “obstacles against this passage to womanhood” as well as “female rivalry, predatory sexuality and constrictive authority” (Rowe, 348). The stepmother in Lee’s fairy tale, when compared to those from Perrault’s and Brothers Grimm’s versions, is more willing to accept Ashella. Nevertheless, she soon tires of her grave behaviour and exclaims that the people will think that she and her daughters mistreat Ashella “from jealousy of her dead mother” (Lee, 122). The noun ‘jealously’ hints to the futile rivalry between the dead mother and the stepmother, and since the mother is no longer a part of the story, this competitiveness is redirected towards Ashella. Furthermore, Rowe also says that the rivalry with the stepmother personifies “the adolescent’s negative feelings toward her mother” (Rowe, 348). Even though Rowe’s arguments are directed towards the popular classic versions of Cinderella, we must ask if her words can still apply to the modern retellings or not. Her claim does not seem entirely appropriate to Ashella’s situation because, due to her close bond with her late mother, the existent female rivalry stems from Ashella’s devotion to her mother. In fact, Ashella exerts her superiority over the stepmother by not engaging in such petty rivalries. This is also an example of how the mother, despite being deceased, still influences Ashella’s decisions and relationships. Therefore, female rivalry is not what the stepmother embodies in “When The Clock Strikes”, but she personifies Ashella’s determination to execute her mother’s wishes, and this shows strength of character.
For centuries, fairy tales have revolved around good natured and passive heroines, but Lee’s “When The Clock Strikes” rebels against this norm. As stated by Warner, “authentic power lies with the bad women” and in Lee’s modern tale, “sinister and gruesome forces are magnified and prevail throughout” (Warner 207). Warner’s definition of a ‘bad’ woman refers to someone who is unchangeably evil in their very nature and ‘power’ implies the ability to act independently and make influential decisions. Although it can be argued that Ashella’s mother is punished due to her nefariousness, it is more important to note that Ashella is rewarded, despite being like her mother, because this ending distinguishes Lee’s story from the classic versions. Some may argue that portraying a woman as evil is anti-feminist, but the fact that this evil woman emerges victorious makes Lee’s story feminist. An example of Ashella’s triumph is hidden within Lee’s tale: “Only one thing was left behind. A woman’s shoe. A shoe no woman could ever have danced in. It was made of glass” (Lee, 128). The first line, “only one thing was left behind”, evidently conveys that at the end of the ball, Ashella was the one left standing. The third and fourth lines subtly juxtapose power and fragility; the shoe is a metaphor for Ashella’s challenging journey which no other ordinary woman, or man for that matter, could have survived. The glass in this situation refers to Ashella’s emotional fragility, which is observed throughout the period in which she smothered herself with ashes, and use of past tense such as “was” suggests that she has overcome that vulnerability. Rowe elaborates on this argument by providing a reason why characters are passive in the first place: “‘Romance’ glosses over the heroine’s impotence: she is unable to act independently or self-assertively; she relies on external agents for rescue” (Rowe, 345). Considering that romance is not a significant theme in Lee’s version, Ashella does not passively wait for “external agents of rescue” or a prince to sweep her off her feet. Instead, she acts independently and liberates herself from the weight of her desires for vengeance. Through creating a non-passive heroine, Lee shows the contrast between Ashella and most Cinderella’s who need godmothers and princes to rescue them.
Anti-feminist ideals have been incorporated into fairy tales for many centuries, and it has led to stereotypes which often convey that women need men to act as their heroes; essentially, several popular fairy tales promote the idea of damsels-in-distress. “When The Clock Strikes” by Tanith Lee is a pro-feminist Cinderella story which revolves around a female hero who achieves her goals with little external help. Warner and Rowe are both critics that have strong views on feminism, and comparing the two with relation to Tanith Lee’s story allows us to see how this modern retelling is different from the classic versions. By presenting stronger, dominant female characters and not including romance as a major theme of the story, Lee essentially challenges the ideas of traditional Cinderella stories and effectively presents a feminist retelling of it.
The Cinderella waltz
Ann Beattie’s The Cinderella Waltz is a fascinating short story that explores a divorce between a couple in which one partner has gone off with his homosexual lover and Louise, a nine-year old girl who seems to be more adult than most kids her age. By applying psychoanalytic criticism to this story, The Cinderella Waltz becomes an interesting investigative piece of literature that is rich in a variety of possible meanings behind it.
The situation of the characters in The Cinderella Waltz are rather peculiar, mainly because of the relationships between the narrator, her ex-husband Milo; Bradley, her ex-husband’s boyfriend/lover; and Louise, their daughter. Normally, one would find it rather distasteful that their partner has gone off with a different lover, especially if it’s a homosexual lover; however, that is not the case with the narrator. Although she was initially crestfallen by Milo’s choice and understandably behaved irrationally afterwards, she never once took away Milo’s right to be Louise’s father. One could infer she was doing that because of Louise, however, it can also be interpreted that the narrator’s feelings for Milo have not changed, and, despite everything, she’s trying to find the good in the man she used to love. This could also be due to her maternal instincts, and that no matter what, she didn’t want Louise to grow up without her dad.
The narrator seemed to be so blinded by love for Milo that she pretended to be a “happy suburban housewife” and unconscionably let the problem within their marriage drag on, which eventually led to their divorce. Her decision to ignore the problem did more harm than good, as doing so was a form of cognitive and emotional mechanism to shield herself from the painful and unavoidable truth: that her husband loved a different man. Perhaps it was because of her love for him that she ultimately gave him up to Bradley – she could’ve very well disagreed to the divorce and keep Milo around, but it was this form of sacrificial love that lets the readers know how deep and true the narrator’s love for both Milo and Louise are that she gave him up, even if it broke her heart to do so. In this case, we see two types of love from the narrator: motherly love and sacrificial love.
Beattie describes Milo as a “perfectionist” and is implied to be obsessed with propriety multiple times throughout the story. He is constantly concerned with conforming to the social norm, which is quite ironic, as his relationship with Bradley is one that’s considered improper by the society. It can be inferred that Milo is uncomfortable with having an improper lifestyle and doesn’t want to seem “abnormal” due to the nature of his and Bradley’s relationship, which is the reason for his obsession with propriety in every other aspect of his life. Because Milo is a perfectionist, he refuses to find faults within himself and can come off as abrasive. This is evident when Bradley lost his job, and Milo accused him of “doing it deliberately.”
Bradley, however, seems to be the complete opposite of Milo. Whereas Milo acts like he is inconsiderate of others’ feelings and blames others for their mistakes rather than trying to understand them, Bradley seems to be a very considerate man. Despite the fact that the narrator disliked him in the beginning, he still tried his hardest to make amends for what had happened between her and Milo’s marriage by acting like a second father to Louise — this action suggests that Bradley must have felt guilty for “taking her father.” Furthermore, he didn’t brag about “winning” Milo over; in fact he was humble, apologetic and gentle about it — he even gave an opportunity (although wasted) for the narrator and Milo to talk to each other. Furthermore, Bradley is just as selfless as the narrator, in a way that he was ready to give it all up and go to California with Milo (even though he didn’t have to), simply because he loved him.
Louise, the wise child of the marriage, is quite an interesting character, because she’s a nine year old who seems “wise” (“Children seem older now”). She is the tie that binds all of them together and leads to the narrator having a close friendship with her ex-husband’s lover. The narrator is unsure whether Louise understand the nature of her father’s relationship; however, readers can infer that she is more perceptive than she lets on. Louise is also a very responsible child since she handles a lot of household tasks and does a lot of projects. Beattie mentions that Louise can “sound exactly like Milo sometimes,” insinuating the idea that children are more observant than they seem to be and, when exposed to certain situations, can adapt their parents’ behaviors and mannerisms. However, as “adult-like” as Louise tends to be, she is still a child, and there are situations that she may not fully understand yet, like Milo’s decision to go to California, which explains the reason for her bursting into tears, thinking that he had lied to her.
Ann Beattie manages to produce four people who have real problems that are resolved, or left unresolved, in an entirely real way. She was able to capture real-life problems that trouble many married couples, particularly divorce, in a realistic and captivating way. It’s slightly ironic that The Cinderella Waltz ends with the narrator wondering “if Milo and Bradley and I haven’t been playing house, too — pretending to be adults.” That line is surely applicable to many of its readers, who wish to go back to their fondest memories of their childhood, when life was less complicated and more exciting, but in their inability to do so, continue to act childish and ignore the matter at hand, just like the adults in the story. And in this story, we see two forms of love: familial love and sacrificial love.
Comparative Analysis Of Three Different Renditions Of Cinderella
The classic tale of Cinderella is one that has been retold over countless centuries having numerous renditions designed to adapt to a certain cultural society at a given time. Due to so many renditions and being retold so many times, certain versions are completely different while embodying the same message. However, the classic story of Cinderella revolves around a beautiful young lady who loses her mother and upon her father’s new marriage, faces new struggles. Some of these struggles include mistreatment and harassment through her new stepmother and stepsisters as she is treated like the ugly duckling. Cinderella finds herself being ordered around to perform countless chores which seemingly never stopped. However, through her persistence and desire to want a better life, she along with the help of her fairy godmother are able to find Cinderella the love of her life and ultimately a happily ever after ending. Due to the countless different iterations of this classic story, it is evident that due to certain cultures and their beliefs, certain conditions such as actions made, magical assistance, and even origin stories for the protagonist are altered. We will be carefully looking at three different renditions of Cinderella to gauge their agency, assistance, and culture that seems to take place.
In the classic story “Cinderella”, the protagonist does almost nothing to alter her certain fate, but more so her fate is altered due to the persistence of the prince who went out of his way to find the rightful owner of the glass slipper. Upon finding the owner of the slipper, the two end up falling in love and we come to the happily ever after ending. However, in “Yeh-hsien” a Chinese rendition of Cinderella, the protagonist takes the form as Yeh Hsein. The actions by both characters are remotely similar as they did not actively try to change their own fate, but rather let others alter it. In Yeh Hsien, similarly like Cinderella, the protagonist lost her shoe and the king who went by the name of T’o-han looked all over for the owner, but unlike the origin story, Yeh-Hsien put on her best attire and tried to look as good as possible for the king, As the story states, after the encounter, Yeh-Hsein “now began to render service to the king”. On the other hand, unlike both Cinderella and Yeh-Hsein, the story of Donkeyskin shows a different approach made by the protagonist. The heroine of Donkeyskin puts matters into her own hands and alter her seemingly certain fate. This is clearly seen in the scene where the heroine places a ring in a cake that she had baked for the prince. The author of the story known as Perrault had even stated that it was a act to get the prince’s attention as seen in this quote, “…she put it in there with a purpose. I have no doubts, and I give you my word that she was confident that her young admirer would accept the ring with gratitude”. Similarly like in Donkeyskin, in the story “Vasilisa the Fair” the protagonist is clearly seen to making an active effort to change her fate. Vasilina possesses talents in producing fine linen and she unknowingly uses this talent to her advantage to change her future. One day, the protagonist gives an old lady who housed her some linen and states, “‘Granny, sell this linen and keep the money for yourself’”. The Granny presents this linen in front of the tsar who is astonished by the quality of the work. It turns out that Vasilisa was the only one who could produce this type of linen which she was well aware of. Eventually, Vasilisa came face to face with the tsar and the fell in love with each other.
In the original story of Cinderella, the protagonist seemingly received magical assistance from the one and only fairy godmother. However, in Yeh-Hsein, rather than a fairy godmother, the void is filled with someone described as “a man with his hair loose over his shoulders and coarse hair”. The secretive man convincingly acts as a guardian spirit who watches over Yeh-hsein in her development. This man tells her where to find the beloved fish and told her if she prayed to the bones, she would be able to grant whatever wish she wanted to reality. In Donkeyskin, the protagonist receives assistance also from her fairy godmother. Her fairy godmother is seemingly described to be “an extraordinary fairy, unrivaled in her art”. The protagonist’s fairy godmother is seen to constantly help her keep her family together and eventually allows her to escape her troubles. In Vasilisa the Fair, it is evident that Vasilisa gets help from two alternate sources. One of the sources is seen to be her magical doll and the other source is her mother and Baba Yaga who was known as the old witch who lived in the forest. The magical doll pretty much helped Vasilisa throughout her entire story with her daily struggles such as chores. Towards the end of the story, the doll had helped her create the loom which produced the one of kind linen that was presented to the tsar. Baba Yaga had helped with the demise of Vasilisa’s step-family.
As all three stories are simply renditions told to cater to a certain culture, they are going to be different. These alterations reflect upon the culture and beliefs of whom the story is catered to. Yeh-Hsein has annotation in the book referencing her as “The Chinese Cinderella Story”. Throughout the story, there are multiple references only those who were knowledgeable about Chinese culture would pick up on. For example the reference to fish bones which represent good luck and fortune and the mysterious man who had helped Yeh-hsein. Asian culture typically does not believe in fairy godparents hence the reason the role was swapped by the mysterious man. The author had stated that the king used his wish from the fish bones to grant “treasures and jade without limit”. In Chinese and other cultures, jade is a highly valuable gemstone that people tend to gravitate towards. In Donkeyskin, this story evidently originated from Europe clearly seen by the references to the season of Carnival. The constant mentioning of nobility, baronesses, and countesses highlights the culture behind this rendition of Cinderella. Lastly, in Vasilisa the Fair, Russian culture is evident throughout the story. The mentions of beverages exclusive to Russia, the Tsar who is the Russian emperor, and Baba Yaga which is a Russian name help convince the reader about the cultural adaptation the story had to make to cater to the Russian audience.
Psychological Interpretation Of The Topic Of Sibling’s Rivalry And Oedipal Period In Cinderella
This essay is an evaluation of psychological interpretation of fairy and folklore tales looking at the topic of sibling’s rivalry and oedipal period in Cinderella. There is a use of Freud Sigmund psychological theory to interpret. Cambridge dictionary defines psychological as: several number of human personality theories that attempt to examine a person’s unconscious mind to discover the hidden causes of their mental problems. Freud Sigmund (1950) is one of the first psychologists to study human motivation, he is also known as the father of psychoanalysis. In his theories he suggested that there are three elements which influence our behaviour: and these are the ID; the Superego and the Ego. In the tale, Cinderella’s childhood memories made her create her own world while she was under isolation and loneliness. After both of her parents died in the Disney version, her step-family never treated like a family member, she was treated differently and not like part of the family.
Painful memories like these are in the Grimm’s version (1812), she went to her mothers’ grave and wept bitterly’ this made her to grow up quickly and realise her own dream which was associated with escaping her reality and refused to be stay in the same house where she was not treated like a step- sister. In the Grimm’s Version (1812) sibling rivalry begun before her father died. Cinderella was already treated differently from her step-sisters after her father remarried as the story tells us that they took away her belongings, dressed her in rags and she begun to do house chores while her step sisters ridiculed her. The interpretation of Cinderella’s siblings is well explained by Freudian psychologist Bruno Bettelheim who wrote about the relationships in the Cinderella tale in his article “Cinderella”: A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Oedipal Conflicts. Bettelheim (1975) reveals reasons why society is so fascinated with the Cinderella story, explaining that the core of the tale is sibling rivalry; moreover, Bettelheim offers reasoning as to why Cinderella behaves the way she does. Going back to the Grimm’s version while her father is preparing to leave for a trip Cinderella only politely asked him to bring her a rose while the step sisters ask for clothes and fine things. Favouritism was already in place.
Another notable author Madonna Kolbenschlag in her piece, “A Feminist View of ‘Cinderella,’” says that the fantasy of Cinderella is more than a rags-to-riches story and also reflects on how the tale shows sibling rivalry, the characteristics of a heroine from Cinderella’s thoughts and actions, specifically her passive behaviour towards her family. Although they treat her badly, she still holds on to her dream that there is something or someone out there for her. The fairy God mother appears to give her chance to dream and attend the ball. The Grimm’s version a tree grows because she filled it with tears because of her dreams and sibling’s rivalry. All children crave for attention, Cinderella is not given any special attention in all the versions that is why she befriends animals in the Disney version. Her sisters, father and stepmother all treat her like she is not worthy to be part of their family. Their anger and hate towards her only made her resent her siblings. Cinderella suffers because her step-sisters’ jealous psychologically as a child she is not consciously aware of. In theory Bettelheim (1991) calls this parental criticism. Her father seems loving and kind in the Disney version. “The only explanation for parental criticism a child can think of is that there must be a serious flaw in him which accounts for what he experiences rejection”. Because of this treatment, evil stepmother and parents’ exploitation and actions makes her the desperate sibling who is patiently suffering and waiting to be rescued. Explaining the elements of unconscious and conscious mind, ID superego and ego to describe Cinderella’s actions and behaviour. In this case the super-ego element incorporates the values and morals learnt from parents and society, developing between the ages of Three and five. Cinderella still had the consciousness of a child she lacked parents and society interaction to incorporate with.
Although many critics have criticised Cinderella for waiting for her prince ‘Kolbenschlag (1976) describes Cinderella’s behaviour is that of a typical heroine; making sacrifices and skimming rock bottom before they become triumph. This statement is a reminder of modern-day heroines. We all go through challenges and difficulties that will later inspire us to become better and strive. This when the unconscious and conscious mind is used to explain that we are aware of reality, using the ego element. The mind is always aware of what we going through and forces us to make us make decisions in the case of Cinderella, sibling rivalry and parent rejection which Bettelheim has discussed as the reason why Cinderella continued to be kind and seek approval even if her step-family treated her differently.
- Bettelheim, B. (1991). Freud’s Vienna and other essays. New York: Vintage Books.
- Bettelheim, B. (2011). The uses of enchantment. New York: Vintage Books.
- Freud, S. and Fodor, N. (1950). Freud; dictionary of psychoanalysis. New York: Philosophical Library.
- Grimm, W. and Grimm, J. (2013). Grimms’ fairy tales. Floris Books. Kolbenschlag, M.
- Madonna Kolbenschlag (2019). [online] Sutterfield.weebly.com. Available at: https://sutterfield.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/6/8/12686139/kolbenschlag_article.pdf [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019].
The Role Of Purity In Cinderella By Charles Perrault And The Princess On The Glass Hill By Asbjornsen
The Princess on the Glass Hill and Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, discuss strong ideas of purity that are portrayed by two characters, Cinderella and Cinderlad. Cinderella and Cinderlad face similar challenges and lifestyles. Purity in its simplest form is: a soul free of any contamination, something that as human beings we have easily lost. These fairy tales display purity and all its wonderful essence through both characters, despite the poor treatment they receive from what is considered their family, they are able to hold an innocence that the people surrounding them, have simply lost. The Princess on the Glass Hill is a story that can easily be compared to the story of Cinderella however; some components of the story shift and put the role onto a male character who in the end wants to gain the love of a Princess waiting for someone worthy enough for her. Cinderlad favored easily in the Princess’ heart because just like her, he contains the same purity she holds, and is not be seen as a prisoner on the Glass Hill, but instead waiting for someone she knows will not contaminate a purity that she also contain. “The Princess was very beautiful, and all who saw her fell violently in love with her, even in spite of themselves. So it is needless to say that all the princes and knights were eager to win her…”. Her unjustifiable beauty made everyone fall in love, meaning that those throwing themselves at her, would create a hard time for the princess to fall truly in love.
This fairytale suggests that those who are impure, desperately want to reach out to those good, and demand their riches. “…The brothers went to the glass hill, and all the princes and knights began to ride again, and this time they had taken care to roughen the shoes of their horses; but that did not help them: they rode and they slipped as they had done the day before, and not one of them could get even so far as a yard up the hill. When they had tired out their horses, so that they could do no more.” By the individuals trying to reach the top of the mountain knowing there is no way they could ever make it to the top they feel as if it’s a sense of duty to gain the wealth that she has maintained, because they want to gain back the sense of innocence that they have lost. Cinderella; or The Little Glass Slipper is the closest story when thinking about the original idea of Cinderella, but contains more details when talking about innocence. Cinderella contains a lot of empathy making her completely pure. For instance, when the King hosted a two day ball, Cinderella attended through the help of a fairy godmother. Her empathy helped the fairy godmother to find a coachman which the fairy godmother could not find.
At the beginning Cinderella and Cinderlad are seen as worthless. Cinderella’s stepsisters and her stepmother have nasty attitudes and personalities towards her and they dressed expensively to please the prince but to no avail had him even bat an eye at them. Thus, many people believe that dressing expensively can gain respect but those humbled and have a pure heart makes one more intriguing. Cinderlad’s humbleness made everyone jealous; his brothers, and father both included. While Cinder’s brothers dressed expensively in order to gain favor in the eyes of the princess and hurtfully denied Cinder a chance to go and see who rides the horse up the hill, and told him that he was ugly and dirty therefore not fit to go to the king’s place. Cinderlad however; is not afraid of anything and decided to go by himself, and unlike his brothers and father who were afraid made them jealous that they could not be like him. Cinderlad dresses in a way that reflects his humbleness and finds favor to marry the King’s daughter. Therefore, dressing expensively does not portray purity or wealth but instead reflects pride. The two stories represents purity and humbleness of Cinderlad and Cinderella. The prince saw purity in Cinderella through her humble gown unlike her arrogant stepsisters who dressed to please others. Thus many people have lost the grace and favor of achieving their goals due to looking down upon other people.
Glass is symbolically used in both stories. It symbolizes the true identity and purity, for instance, as the glass is see through, it reflects how transparent their beauty is, and reveals that both characters contain no flaws or desire to be corrupt. They are able to stay true to themselves only because of their humbleness and kindness. Glass along with the theme of Cinderella’s glass slipper and Cinderlad’s golden armour, only reflect their angelic like qualities, and reflect soley who they truly are. “The king himself, old as he was, could not help watching her, and telling the queen softly that it was a long time since he had seen so beautiful and lovely a creature.” (Perrault 29) The king complimenting Cinderella shows that he has never yet seen someone in the purest form of beauty.
In The Princess on the Glass Hill, Cinderlad’s brothers discouraged him from going on the hill to get the golden apples, in order for them to get a chance of marrying the King’s daughter. The hurtful remarks that his brothers made however; never stopped him from trying to win her heart. When the time came to know who would get the chance to marry the King’s daughter, all the men who were available no one had the golden apple. The King order all men to show up, but Cinderlad’s brothers concluded that Cinderlad should not be called because he had spent all time at home seated on ashes. In this story golden apple is symbolically used, it can be interpreted as a symbol of purity and humbleness. Horses are occasionally brought up in both stories and could be a major symbolism for freedom. The Princess on the Glass Hill and Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, discusses our Cinderlad had desires of going to the king’s place to see who will ride the horse and get golden apple in order to marry King’s daughter but he was denied a chance by his brothers, but he never gave up he decided to go by himself. The impurity of his brothers never contaminated him, he maintained his purity and humbleness. Same case applies to Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters wanted to block her from achieving her desires. Her elder step sister called her Cinderwrench but she was not moved by all the sorts of words that she was called rather than respecting herself and stayed calm, a sign of humbleness. In addition horse symbolizes power in Native American tribes. Thus many of the people discern to achieve what is not theirs because of their greedy nature.
Cinderella portrays humbleness that made her complete pure woman. Moreover, she is often maltreated by her stepsisters and her stepmother but she was able to bear all those hardships and unsuitable personalities. She carried out all the house chores but she never complained, but she conquered them all when the prince announces that he will marry a woman whose foot will fit the glass slipper. She’s mocked when she said to try to wear the slipper but the slipper fits her and she’s transformed out of her ragged outfit into magnificent gown. She becomes a chariot, Cinderella is compared to a diamond that was found covered by dirt but still valuable, and once the diamond is cleansed many people will admire it. Cinderella’s transformation made her stepsister and stepmother realize that she is unknown beautiful princess and her purity shows up after forgiving her stepmother and her stepsisters. The Princess on the Glass Hill and Cinderella; or, the Little Glass Slipper, enables us to understand the calmness of Cinderlad and Cinderella. Cinderella quietly takes the orders of her stepmother and stepsisters, without allowing her hopes to fall, knowing that ultimately her kindness will repay her. Thus encouraging many people to believe in their dreams and not letting any obstacle to hinder them from achieving their goals. Cinderella’s dreams came true after enduring maltreatment from her evil stepmother. Cinderlad’s brother maltreatment and discouragement did not contaminate his purity either, his humbleness only enabled him to win the heart of the Princess.
In conclusion, The Princess on the Glass Hill and Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, reflects the purity and humbleness of two characters, Cinderella and Cinderlad. Both faced similar challenges from their family but the oppression did not contaminate their purity. Through both texts they communicate a repetitive form of staying true to one’s own purity, and not feeling the pressure of those around to act and dress in a certain way to maintain a form of importance. Both characters were able to demonstrate that the clothes they wear do not reflect their true selves, but once they are blessed and granted with a change in appearance to reflect their soul they are ultimately appreciated by those around them.
An analysis & comparison on the stories The Princess on the Glass Hill by Asbjornsen and Moe and Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper by Charles Perrault explores the impact of purity within both stories. I wanted to focus my analysis and comparison on the significance of symbolism which are begging to be conjured, both of these pieces carried many similar symbolic terms that not only were recurring terms but also terms that have been popular to use throughout the long history of literature. I focused my work upon words that had value towards the protagonist on these stories.
The Princess on the Glass Hill takes the interesting take of Cinderella as a male character named Cinderlad. The symbolic terms shared the same meanings but both stories used them in a completely different context within their stories, I wanted to look at the symbolic terms that affected both stories glass and gold were the symbolic figures which represented value, and pureness. “She left behind one of her glass slippers, which the prince picked up most carefully”. Glass I believed was the sign of purity, the idea of Glass representing virginity and when the prince picks up the left glass slipper she left behind he picks it up carefully representing that of her pureness, virginity, innocence. It is established that Cinderella is gentle, kind, fragile. ‘It would make the people laugh to see a Cinderwench at a ball”. “They went to court, and Cinderella followed them with her eyes as long as she could. When she lost sight of them, she started to cry.” Reading these passages is an indication towards her innocence and pureness she represents this by taking what her sisters say and not fighting back towards their comments about her, I wanted this to set example that she is sweet kind and innocent that she would never say anything back. It sets the tone for her innocence even until the end when her sisters beg for forgiveness because she is so beautiful “They threw themselves at her feet to beg pardon for all the ill treatment they had made her undergo. Cinderella took them up, and, as she embraced them, said that she forgave them with all her heart, and wanted them always to love her.” Instead of repeating that ill treatment that her stepmother and siblings showed towards. Another example of that purity represented as the slipper those with no pure heart and no pure intentions could not fit the slipper. “He found that it went on very easily, fitting her as if it had been made of wax. Her sisters who from the start showed they were not pure could not fit the slipper no matter how hard they tried Cinderella could only fit it due to that pureness she carried it had been made of wax it had be made for her foot.
“The knight had golden armor, and the horse a golden saddle and bridle, and these were all so bright that they shone and dazzled everyone, even while the knight was still at a great distance.” Gold was used in the sense of worth and value not necessarily worth as in wealthness but worth as in pureness, virtuous. Only Cinderlad was able to climb the glass mountain which could only be climbed by someone pure he had worth he rode the Gold horse out of the three and obtained the gold apples. I wanted to focus that importance that Gold had through the story as only someone who was worthy could obtain that, Cinderlad showed his worth and pureness when he could mount the biggest horse and climb the purest mountain of glass.
Tale of the Shoe
In Emma Donoghue’s version of Cinderella named ‘The Tale of The Shoe’, written in 1997, the reader is introduced to a different Cinderella; one that would be living in our time.[..] It is Donoghue’s more of a realistic and gloomy take on the story. The altered character of “Cinderella” is not plagued by her family- her stepmother and stepsister do not force her to do household chores. Which clearly supports the post-feminist claim that women are no longer powerless victims. Donoghue also tries to analyze the stereotypical concepts of gender and sexuality, replacing such contrasts with diversity. In addition, she also has Cinderella attending 3 balls instead of one.
Feminism is a very prominent theme in Donoghue’s retelling. Rather than Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters pressuring Cinderella into doing the house chores and being spiteful towards her (an external conflict), we see more of an internal conflict within Cinderella: ‘Nobody made me do the things I did, nobody scolded me, and nobody punished me but me. The shrill voices were all inside’ (Donoghue 2). This conveys the idea that she is no one’s ‘property’ and answers only to her own orders, which can apply to society in the late twentieth century. It also highlights and brings up a mental conflict which was common back when the tale was published, making Cinderella even more applicable to people (the proportion of men committing suicide between 1995 and 2000 in Ireland increased by fourteen percent.) (EU Commission 26). What I believe Donoghue attempted to show is that we are no longer living in a time where women were expected to answer to people, as in the old Cinderella. Women have become independent.
[..] In much the same way, the concept of gender identity is also dealt with. Second-wave feminism has pointed out the fact that women are still seen, primarily, as creatures of the home, their natural habitat being that of the domestic sphere, and their natural role is that of a mother. Cinderella states repeatedly that the “Fairy Godmother” is not her mother. She is even referred to as a mysterious “stranger”. The female identity is not equated with the maternal identity. Instead of taking on the role of Cinderella’s lost mother, the “Fairy Godmother” replaces her Prince Charming. The idea of homosexuality definitely opposes the classic Cinderella, who loved a man.
When she states “because I asked, she took me to the ball. Isn’t that what girls are meant to ask for?” (Donoghue 3). “So, then she took me home, or I took her home, or we were both somehow taken to the closest thing” (Donoghue 8). Her tone conveys the idea that even if she had not gone to the ball, she would not have regretted it, unlike the first Cinderella. It seems she was almost expected to want to be there, simply because she is female. She is not interested in the dresses, the high heels, the dances, or perhaps anything with feminine connotations. [..] This is evident especially here: “The musicians played the same tune over and over…I swallowed a little of everything I was offered, then leaned over the balcony and threw it all up again” (Donoghue 6) this quote implies that Donoghue’s Cinderella does not necessarily find joy in the luxury. It seems she found it rather excruciating to put on this persona. Getting rid of the glass slippers could be a metaphor for Donoghue dismissing the original fairy tale for its sappiness: “I threw the other shoe into the brambles where it hung, glinting”. Donoghue may be suggesting, especially with the spontaneity of how Cinderella and the woman met, that we cannot choose who we love, or deny who we truly are, heterosexual or not. We must embrace ourselves no matter how we may be.
The theme of love from the classic tale remains consistent in ‘The Tale of The Shoe’. I do believe, however, Donoghue attempted to give us a more realistic outlook on love and finding love. Where the classic Cinderella hoped to go to the ball to meet the prince and marry him, Donoghue’s Cinderella did not plan to encounter the woman that was soon to be her lover, meeting her was a very spontaneous event: ‘Once, out of all the times when I ran to the door and there was nobody there, there was still nobody there, but the stranger was behind me’ (Donoghue 2-3). Donoghue implies that love is not something to be found or searched for, it is something that will find you and come to you when the time is right, possibly even when you least expect it to; life and love is not a fairytale.
Furthermore, to elaborate on the theme of love, what I also found very interesting and bound to challenge many people, especially the conservative part of the audience, is that Cinderella was written to be a homosexual. In 1993 in Ireland, private homosexual acts between two men over the age of twenty-one were decriminalized (The Irish Times, 8). So, Homosexuality was still new and was not that freely practiced in 1997, the year where the book was published in, this supports the fact that Donoghue was bold and challenged society.
In conclusion, ‘The Tale of The Shoe’ is a very witty piece of work by Emma Donoghue. She delivers subliminal messages through implications and literary devices. She empowers women and encourages freedom of choice. Instead of feeding us just another fairytale, Donoghue decides to give us a more realistic version of the much-loved tale Cinderella, one which challenges many, yet enables us as the audience to be able to adapt the story to our own lives. Donoghue encourages us to accept spontaneity and unapologetically be ourselves because that is how to find a real-life happy ending.
Cinderella: Story by Brothers Grimm and Other Stories
Throughout time, authors reconstruct many versions of stories such as fairy tales. Even though each story can take on a unique perspective due to different reasons, such as the time period when it’s being told, these stories are linked together by following key events that set it apart as being that particular story, for example Cinderella. Cinderella is told in many different ways, but because all stories follow a similar pattern of events, they are just versions of the same story. What makes the different versions unique, is their ability to maintain the same story events, but be told in different way, being the story’s discourse. Though many versions of Cinderella follow a similar pattern in terms of having the same story events in the plot, differences can be seen in various versions of Cinderella, such as Brothers Grimm’s version of Cinderella and Ananya ’s version of Cinderella, in the way that the story is told. The differences in the overall interpretation of a tale are essential because the differences show how stories evolve over time, and how they can change when told by different people with different perspectives.
The similarities that exist between Brother’s Grimm version of Cinderella, “Cinderella” and the other version of Cinderella “Cinderella” can be seen in key plot elements. These similarities are what makes both versions a fairytale of Cinderella. For example, the both of the plots involved Cinderella facing the death of an important figure (her mother), and not being able to rely on her father. As a result of that, Cinderella was mistreated by other people. In the Brothers Grimm version, she was mistreated by her step sister’s, “from morning until night” while her “two sisters did everything imaginable to make her miserable” (Grimm 117) and in the other version she was mistreated by her friend’s who “would trick [her] into doing chores for them” ( 1). This plot point is essential in building the fairy tale of Cinderella because it leads to the rest of the conflict of the story in which Cinderella gets invited to attend a major event. The event would be the festival in Brother’s Grimm’s version, and the concert in the other version. However, she is kept from attending the event due to the “villains of the story”. Because of this, Cinderella has to rely on some magic entity, to get to her goal which is the event. In the Brothers Grimm version she relies on a “little bird [who] would toss down what she wished for” (Grimm 118) and in the other versions the magical entity was also a bird who Cinderella believed to be a “magical entity” ( 2). Due to these similarities between the plot, both stories can be seen as fairy tales, and also versions of Cinderella.
However, despite the fact that Brothers Grimm’s version of Cinderella and the other version of Cinderella share similarities in plot, there are many differences that contribute to the discourse between both the stories. The differences that exist between both tellings of “Cinderella” are important to note because they matter to the overall interpretation of the story. For example, one could argue that Brother’s Grimm version of Cinderella can be seen as a more moralistic story. There are many morals that can be pulled from the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, the most basic example being not to mistreat others, of one would be punished. As there are morals in Brothers Grimm’s version, there is no clear moral that comes from the other version, and would serve better to be analyzed from a psychoanalytical perspective, rather than a moralistic perspective like Brothers Grimm’s version. Throughout the other version of Cinderella, the author mentions on multiple occasions that Cinderella feels “anxious” or “paranoid”, which serves the purpose of forcing the reader to wonder about Cinderella’s mental state. Another main element of discourse that exists is the difference in focalization between both stories. Though both stories are told in the third person, Brothers Grimm version has little dialogue, compared to the other version, which is told primarily through dialogue, arguably almost making it a “first person perspective”. The reason from these difference can be due to the fact that in Brothers Grimms version, the story was made to be more moralistic, so the thoughts and actions of others were vital. However in the other version of Cinderella, the story seems to move away from a moralistic perspective and take on a psychoanalytic perspective, which would require it to focus more on the thoughts and voice of Cinderella. In addition, another key difference that can be seen between both the stories is the order in which the story events are told. In Brothers Grimm’s version, the story follows a chronological order, beginning with Cinderella’s back story of her mother dying, and then continuing from that point on. In the other version of Cinderella, even though the events are told chronologically like Brothers Grimm’s version, the story is being told primarily through a flashback, making the final climax the beginning of the story, and then following the chronological order of Cinderella that Brothers Grimm version follows. Finally, because of the language of the overall story of Brother’s Grimm’s version, it is evident that the storyworld of that version predates the story world that exists in the other version. For example, in Brothers Grimms version, the author mentions going to a wedding at “the king’s palace” (Grimm 118), which is vastly different than the story world built in the other version, which is primarily made up of “blank white walls” (1). The differences between both story worlds exist to show the difference in perspectives of a story told years ago, and a story told in modern times. As a result, these differences become essential in interpreting a tale, and its time period.
Both versions of Cinderella were similar in that they followed the same main plot, however differing in some points which was vital to the overall interpretation of both tales.
A Question of Chastity and Abstinence before Marriage in Cinderella Fairy Tale
“Cinderella” was written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the late 1700’s in Germany. The Cinderella story is a fairy tale. The target audience of Jacob and Wilhelm’s “Cinderella”, however, was primarily adults and teenagers. The primary focus of the Fairy Tale genre is to entertain, it preaches a moral, and it represents and expresses the cultural views of the time. Grimm’s “Cinderella” is a type of wish-fulfilment story that conveys that chastity and abstinence before marriage will get you a happy life, but sex before marriage guarantees that your life will be miserable and full of hatred.
A common idea during the victorian and medieval era is that sex defines your character, which unfortunately is still a common idea to this day. The ideal that abstinence was the only way to guarantee a successful marriage was heavily enforced by christians at the time, and there is a lot of symbolism pertaining to this in both of these stories. “A white bird came to the tree every time, and whenever she expressed a wish, the bird would throw down to her what she had wished for.” “Cinderella”, Page 2 Line 25. Besides the obvious biblical connotations, the color white is something commonly seen when concerning Cinderella. White represents purity, innocence and virginity. Birds represent freedom and flight, but are also considered the bridge between Heaven and Earth. Because they are able to talk to god, per say, this helps to enforce the Christian belief that abstinence is the only way to ensure a good marriage. “It [the shoe] was small and dainty, and of pure gold.” “Cinderella” Page 6, last line. In many ancient civilizations, shoes were a symbol of the vagina, and the smaller your foot, the smaller the vagina. A small vagina was desired in females, and in Chinese families would often bind the feet of their daughters so they could fit into smaller shoes. “On his way home, as he was riding through a green thicket, a hazel twig brushed against him and knocked off his hat.” “Cinderella” Page 3 Line 16. In ancient tree lore, hazel trees were associated with love/marriage, female sexuality, and fertility, among other things. The fact that she planted the twig on her mother’s grave symbolizes her dedication to remain pious and good, and she is allowing her mother to witness her dedication.
Alternatively there is much symbolism to show that sex before marriage is a disdainful and horrible thing, and those who commit this crime should be miserable forever. The stepsisters were great representations of this. “Cut off your toe, when you are queen you will no longer have to go on foot.” “Cinderella” Page 7 Line 6. There is some interesting symbolism here. Though it is not stated which toe of which foot she is referring to, it can be assumed that it is the big toe of one of her feet. In toe readings, the big toe is called the Ether Toe, the right ether toe is associated with life purpose and career, while the left is associated with the connection with spiritual and emotional connection to oneself. In both cases, the step sister is sacrificing part of herself to fulfill her stepmother’s wishes. When the prince and the sister ride by the hazel tree, he discovers blood in her shoe. This represents the loss of virginity at some point in her life, and he immediately takes her back to her family. “Cut off a piece of your heel. When you are queen you will no longer have to go on foot.” “Cinderella” Page 8 Line 21. In Ancient Greece, the heel was often considered a blind spot for man because it is the farthest away from the senses. In this case she lost herself in the mother’s dark desires, and when she and the prince ride past the hazel tree, he discovers blood staining her stocking, representing the loss of her virginity. Both of these quotes and the fact that the blood represents a loss of virginity, could represent rape. The fact that the stepmother forces them into a situation that they may not particularly be willing to participate in could suggest that the stepsisters were raped at an earlier time, thus leaving them out of the marriage pool for life. Alternatively, it could be referencing the rape of their innocence. As they are thrust into these situations, they slowly become more and more deplorable, and eventually they become the horrible monsters portrayed in the story.
“Cinderella” is an incredibly fascinating tale in terms of the symbolism used. The Grimm brothers were truly magnificent in this regard. Their impeccable twisting of ancient and modern symbolism to create such an incredible tale with such a rich undertone is remarkable, and authors in this day and age are hardly able to recreate such wonders.