To what extent is feminist criticism helpful in opening up potential meanings in Grimm’s Cinderella?
Using a feminist lens to analyse the children’s fairy-tale of Cinderella reveals interesting themes and ideas that would not have been initially obvious, in particular it can expose typical expectations of women and their role in society. Cinderella is a product of a patriarchal society that assumes men have power over women; women are forced to accept the roles these men impose. This particular version of Cinderella reinforces stereotypical attributes, both positive and negative, of women in Christian society. Elements of the fairy-tale including women’s experience, power relations and representations of woman can be interpreted in a way that supports feminist critique. A feminist criticism states that the representation of women in literature is ‘one of the most important forms of ‘socialisation’, since it ‘provide[s] the role models which indicate… what constitute[s] acceptable versions of the ‘feminine’’. A feminist literary criticism of Cinderella would focus on the characters and the role that they play, concluding that they conform to restrictive gender stereotypes. Cinderella seems to conform to the recognised stereotype of ‘cute but essentially helpless’. She is a ‘part of nature’ as becomes evident when she asks her father to bring a ‘twig’ home for her. Cinderella waters the twig with ‘her tears’ and nurtures the tree which presents a maternal side to the young girl. Her ‘tears’ conjure a sense of helplessness which becomes a recurring pattern as the story progresses as she ‘obeyed but wept’ in response to her stepmother. The young maid accepts what she is told to do with the delicate action of weeping, rather than the unattractive actions: sobbing and crying. This adds to her delicacy and therefore overall femininity. Cinderella is portrayed in a feeble light, yet her step sisters are characterised as ‘dissatisfied shrew[s]’. Rather than the...
Bibliography: Bertens H. (2001) Literary Theory: The Basics, (The Politics of class: Marxism), (pp 94-5,97-99), Abingdon: Routledge
Barry, P. (2002) Beginning Theory (2nd Edition), (p134), Manchester University Press.
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