Is It Happily Ever After
23 April 2015
Is It Really Happily Ever After? Fairytales are one of the common understandings throughout the childhood of children in the United States. The Grimm’s Fairytales serve as a foundation to many of the stories that we grew up with. In the fairytales written by The Brothers Grimm, the role of women play the biggest part in each story; thus may be because that German women were the ones that were telling the stories or because the depiction of women in certain circumstances help get a lesson across. In these fairytales, women function as a mean to get a moral through to an audience. Woman are either portrayed as beautiful and naïve or beautiful and wicked. In the fairytales, not one woman is portrayed as just being mediocre. It is a women’s beauty that will help her attain what she wants or what she ultimately will be in life. It is a women’s duty, to be beautiful, passive, know how to clean and also be innocent, in order for her to live harmoniously throughout life.
The Grimm’s’ knowledge of women is degrading at best. Their idea of a woman’s place in society becomes clear. Their approach to femininity is bipolar, a question of good and evil. Much is revealed about gender roles by examining characterization in Cinderella. Cinderella is the example of “pious and good”, while her stepsisters and stepmother are characterized as “treacherous and wicked at heart.” While this explanation seems simple, and is usually taken at face value, one has to consider the Grimm’s’ explanation of Cinderella’s goodness. Cinderella is apparently “good” only because she is religious and passive. She never does anything aside from looking beautiful to permit such praise. In fact, nearly all heroines in Grimm’s’ fairy tales are beautiful -- from Cinderella to Sleeping Beauty to Rapunzel to Little Red Riding Hood -- and therefore “good.” Specifically, Cinderella is good because she is beautiful, passive, innocent, and beguiled. Her “wicked” stepmother and stepsisters, who are “beautiful and fair in the face, but treacherous and wicked at heart”, victimize Cinderella. They force her to wear rags and act as a servant in order to break her spirit and undermine her beauty status. “In making Cinderella a metaphorical slut, these women are another tool of the Grimm’s’ to serve the mechanism of patriarchy. Whenever a woman in a fairy tale possesses or acts with power, they act in favor of the patriarchy” (Zipes). In Cinderella, the stepmother knows the only way to obtain social status and succeed on the system’s terms is to marry her daughters into wealth. She knows woman’s power directly correlates with woman’s beauty. Thus, her stepdaughter is a threat that must be removed.
The Brother Grimm 's females are "passive, silent, industrious, and rewarded with riches and a man to support them, while male models [are] destined to seek out adventure and take as their reward passive, silent, industrious females." (Jarvis). The brickwork of society at the time when Brothers Grimm wrote their tales demanded reinforcement of patriarchal concepts. Therefore, a good female in the fairytales is one who possesses "feminine" qualities. According to the patriarchal system, an acceptable female is one who is inferior, passive and doesn’t have much initiative to do anything. In the fairytales, Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the women in the stories are ultimately waiting the entire time, to be ultimately saved by “their” prince. Therefore, "waiting" is the privilege of female. According to Alice Neikirk, “The moral that comes across is this: A "good" female waits quietly for the chances to come to her and takes no action on her own to fulfill wishes. In this process of patient waiting only good girls are to be rewarded.” Most rewards come to a female as dating or marriage establishing her worth in society in relations to men around her, therefore, three stages in the life of a female, of good girl, good wife and good mother, have to be highlighted.
The “good girl” is depicted, through the fairytales Cinderella, Little Red Cap, and Snow White. In Cinderella, her mother says “ Dear child, be good and pious. Then the dear Lord will always assist you.” “Good” and “Pious” in this fairytale meaning that she must clean and obey. Obedience comes into place as the “good girl” in Little Red Cap. At the end of the fairytale, little red cap exclaims, “As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so." To be obedience is a virtue, and one must be virtuous to fit into a patriarchal society. Snow White is ultimately a good girl in this patriarchal society because she cleans the house for the dwarves. The “good wife” means when a woman takes care of the house and is obedient as well. To have a harmonious life, a women/wife must embody these two traits. The “good mother” and the “good wife” are also similar. The good mother is one who stays home and takes care of the children. In the Grimm’s fairytales, all the women depicted are either cleaning or taking care of the kids. In the beginning of Rapunzel, all the parents’ want is to have a child, where the mother is to stay at home and take care of said child.
What do these fairytales even teach young girls? They teach them that the only way to make it in life is to obtain beauty and that beauty meaning outside beauty. It teaches them that it is okay for a stranger to buy you when you are dead and not to be alarmed because he’s a prince and you are beautiful. It teaches little girls that if you wait and clean and obey everything you are asked to do, than one day a prince charming will find you too. It also teaches young girls that if you have pretty clothes and all the money in the world than you will be happy. Therefore if you are: pretty, innocent, pious, wealthy, young, obedient and domestic than you will live happily ever after.
In The Brother’s Grimm fairytales, the stories are very much so told within a patriarchal society. The women’s function in this society is to do everything for everyone else and just sit, obey, and look pretty. The roles through out these women’s life consist of being a “good girl” a “good wife” and then a “good mother.” If one makes one mistake than they aren’t considered good? The nature in which these women are being portrayed sheds light on the ways in which society was back when these fairytales were being passed down from generation to generation. The portrayal of young women is ultimately degrading and teaches the children that are being told these stories, that you are only good for your looks and your domestic abilities. Children being told this era of fairytales might as well be told that you will not live happily ever after because no one is perfect.
Jarvis, S. Feminism and fairy tales. Fairy tale companion. Answer.com.
Neikirk, Alice. “…’Happily Ever After’ (or What Fairytales Teach Girls About Being
Women)” Web. 19 April 2015.
Zipes, Jack. (1987). Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Tales in North America and England. New York
Cited: Jarvis, S. Feminism and fairy tales. Fairy tale companion. Answer.com. http://www.answers.com/topic/feminism-and-fairy-tales Neikirk, Alice. “…’Happily Ever After’ (or What Fairytales Teach Girls About Being Women)” Web. 19 April 2015. Zipes, Jack. (1987). Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Tales in North America and England. New York