Tag Archives: Fairy Tale

Cinderella for the 20th Century: Gendering in Ever After

I have always been in love with fairy tales, not simply the ones given to us by Disney, but the traditional ones as well. The Classic Fairy Tales was my favorite text to read. I loved the juxtaposition of the different versions of the stories. It made me think of adaptations I had seen in movies – Cinderella especially. One adaptation that has always stuck with me is Ever After, a movie made in 1998. It is so memorable to me because the characters are far more vibrant than the traditional ones (though they are by no means highly complex characters). One of the key differences in the movie is that there is no fairy godmother, no sort of fantastical outside assistance at all. The Cinderella character – Danielle de Barbarac, is in control of her own fate. She is also a very different girl than the Cinderellas of the Perrault or the Grimm tales: she is highly intelligent, stubborn, and though she is subservient to her stepfamily for the most part, she has spirited outbursts in which she rails against their domination. I would like to explore the nature of the characters in relation to the time the movie was made, comparing them with those of the traditional tale and examining in particular their gendering. Some questions I would like to consider are:

 

1. How does the removal of magic in the story change Cinderella’s character and the story itself?

2. Does Danielle display the traits of a classic hero rather than simply being the protagonist?

3. Danielle identifies very closely with her father, and creates a noble persona for herself using her mother’s name. Is there an Electra complex being carried out?

 

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Science Fiction and the Fairy Tale

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells is a difficult book to place squarely in one genre.  There are many different facets within this story, therefore, it is impossible to place one label upon it and move on.  It’s important to realize that the very fact that this story cannot be categorized is important and gives it a unique place in literature.  Although this story has many aspects of different genres, I believe that it can be most squarely placed in the genre of science fiction, with some aspects of fairy tale writing included.

The reason that The Island of Dr. Moreau fits at least to some degree within the genre of science fiction is based mostly upon the concept of vivisection that occurs on the island.  There are experiments being done on the animals of the island and Dr. Moreau is pushing the limits of vivisection beyond its boundaries by trying to create humans out of animals.  This is such a far fetched idea that it clearly aligns itself with genre of science fiction.

However, there are also some of the characteristics present in the written fairy tales we read.  During the same time that H.G. Wells wrote this story there was a great debate going on in Britain and Europe at large about vivisection and whether or not it was ethical.  By creating a “little establishment…[that] is a kind of Blue-Beard’s chamber” (Wells 19) H.G. Wells is creating a parallel to fairy tales that served a similar purpose once they were written down.  Specifically, Bluebeard was one fairy tale that offered a way for women to explore the more menacing aspects of marriage in a way that allowed much to be decided by the reader.  Similarly, The Island of Dr. Moreau offers a means for exploring the negative and dangerous aspects of vivisection.  By combining these two genres, along with aspects from others, Wells makes it possible to create and interesting science fiction story along with creating a means for reflection.

 

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Opposites with Fairy Tales

I most certainly agree with Tatar when she says that Bluebeard and Beauty and the Beast are opposite.

I believe that Bluebeard (referring to the Perrault story) is a harsh and scary look at what marriage is, or was thought of at the time to be like.  I believe, more for women, that marriage was considered to be scary and very much dreaded.  It would have to be scary just marrying someone who might as well have been a complete stranger!  I for one would be very concerned to be told that there was one certain room in the house that I was not allowed to go enter, especially if I was going to be severely punished for it!  The idea I think this presents is that once women are married, their husbands may do with them as they please.  I can imagine this would be rather horrifying for a woman.

Beauty and the Beast, on the other hand (referring to the Beaumont story) starts out dreary and a little scary; with Beauty’s father losing all his money, and the other two sisters being absolutely hateful towards her.  Unlike in Bluebeard, Beauty selflessly offers to go and live at the Beast’s castle in place of her father.  Instead of feeling trapped in the castle, Beauty has a rather lovely time during her stay, and grows to like and eventually love the Beast.

The most obvious difference between these two stories is that Beauty and the Beast ends well.  Beauty and the Beast (turned Prince) end up living together and happy at the end of their story, while the heroine in Bluebeard is left to try and recover from the horror of the experience of her first marriage.  Beauty and the Beast also shows of how love can change a person, and how it can obviously affect the way you see that person.  There was certainly no mention of anything to do with love in Bluebeard.

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