Explore the Significance of Metafiction in Jeanette Winterson's Story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses

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Throughout Winterson’s rendition of ‘the twelve dancing princesses’ – adapted from the renowned story by the Grimm Brothers –the plotline is explicitly centred around an array of fictional images. Implicitly though, the metafiction and accretion used can be unveiled as symbolism that correlates with a larger meaning; the images associated with men are uncomfortable and even evil in comparison to the comforting images (including the mermaid) that represent womanhood. Therefore, in the two specific examples of the mermaid and the poison, the reader may accept fiction as an underlying detail that leads to a deeper truth or argument. In the exact example of the mermaid the reader learns that the senior princess has fallen in love with her (the mermaid) and that they ‘live in the well’ together. The scene is evidently fictional; mermaids don’t exist, and if they did, then Jordon and the princess wouldn’t be able to stand in the well and converse with the mermaid due to biological impossibilities. Therefore the statement is immediately false, yet the reader may find themselves accepting it as truth in order to move on to the grittiness of the plotline, and discover the significance of the mermaid; her impact can be interpreted in various ways. Firstly, the mermaid could be seen as the product of rebellion against the conventional ritual of marriage to a husband. Rebellion seems a reasonable suggestion after studying the original story, which Winterson’s tale is arguably a continuation of. The ‘doors that were shut and locked up’ each night exemplify the father’s masculine domination over the freedom of his daughters. Likewise, in the tale the King’s offspring would rather see the soldiers killed than have their freedom limited; that ‘they laughed heartily’ at the sleeping soldier exhibits this. That the princess had to plunge in ‘deep waters’ in Winterson’s tale exemplifies how she was willing to face the unknown (traditionally in literature the ocean...
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