Cinderella and the Feminist Struggle for Independence

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Jessica was suspicious of the queen, and rightfully so. When the queen entered the black room, the ghastly sight caused Jessica to faint in disgust. Suspicious, black, ghastly. These are just a few of the words an author can use to imply evil in a character. The connotation of dark as evil is prevalent in many stories throughout the history of western civilization. Fairy tales “emanate from specific struggles to humanize [forces initially perceived to be evil], which have terrorized our minds and communities in concrete ways” (Zipes), and their usually-heroic endings make us forget on a conscious level the lessons they’ve taught us. However, their impact remains on our subconscious views of the world. Because of this, fairly tales often address issues far more serious than one would think to teach to a young reader. The Brothers’ Grimm tale “Ashputtle”, the basis of our modern-day Cinderella archetype, takes advantage of this to address the issue of the continued oppression of women. Modern-day feminists state that there are many repressed attitudes and fears which keep women in a kind of half-light, forcing them to subconsciously retreat from the full use of their minds and creativity (Dowling, 595). The archetypal Cinderella is often criticized by feminist critics for waiting for something external to transform her life (Abel, 192). Contrary to this assumption, passivity is not prevalent in the original Brothers’ Grimm tale. However, actions performed by women in the tale are often associated with darkness. It is this overpowering association with the color black and its implications that truly keep women in a “half-light” in the tale. In “Ashputtle”, the main ‘Cinderella’ character, Ashputtle, decides immediately she wants to go to a ball which the prince is throwing. She makes every effort to do so. She prepares her stepsisters while pleading with her stepmother for permission to attend. She secretly calls upon magical animals which she controls, namely...
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