, Research Paper
“Cinderella” is the tale of a young woman who dreams to have a better life because she is treated like a slave by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. In the end, Cinderella receives her wish of a better life when a handsome young prince comes to the rescue and sweeps her off her feet. Both Madonna Kolbenschlag and Jane Yolen each have written an essay expressing their viewpoints on the tale of “Cinderella.” Madonna Kolbenschlag, the feminist, has written the essay entitled A Feminist’s View of “Cinderella.” Jane Yolen expresses the fact that she is angry because the tale has been defaced so much in her essay, America’s “Cinderella.” Although both of these writers are very firm in their viewpoints, neither of them is necessarily accurate with all of their ideas.
Both Yolen and Kolbenschlag have made Cinderella out to be a helpless and pitiful excuse for a heroine who must wait for a man to come and rescue her. Yolen claims that America’s Cinderella is portrayed as very sweet and nice. She would never wish revenge on anyone, no matter how cruel they had been to her. In Disney’s version, Cinderella sits back and sings while she waits to be rescued by the man of her dreams. In ancient versions, Cinderella was shrewd and inventive. Cinderella tricked the stepsisters and used her mind instead of her figure to win the heart of the prince. She also participated in revenge on the evil stepsisters as they had their eyes pecked out by pigeons (Yolen, 539). Kolbenschlag agrees with Yolen on this point. Cinderella is a nice girl who lets passivity get in the way of making her dreams come true. Instead of being assertive and accomplishing her dreams on her own, she waited for the man to save her from her enslavement (Kolbenschlag, 537).
Cinderella is not necessarily as passive as these writers believe she is. Cinderella was the one who went to the ball that night to try and change her life for the better. If she were truly passive and non-assertive, Cinderella would have stayed home and sobbed the night away. If anyone in the story of “Cinderella” was passive, it was the prince. He did not go out of his way to find the woman of his dreams. The woman of his dreams came seeking him at the palace.
In her essay, Yolen claims that the mice and birds are continually rescuing Cinderella. She mentions two instances in which this happened. The first is when the animals worked together to construct a ball gown for Cinderella. The second is when the mice retrieved the key to the locked door for her (Yolen, 544). Kolbenschlag says that animals are symbols of faith and trust. They represent the belief that something good will come from anything that a person does. This implies that work cannot be enjoyed without a reward for doing it (Kolbenschlag, 536). With Yolen’s first point about the animals, there is no possible way that Cinderella could have had time to make a gown. She was always busy doing chores for her evil stepsisters and stepmother. No matter how strong willed Cinderella was, she would not have time to make a dress. In the second instance, the mice may have moved the key most of the way, but the cat then caught them. Cinderella quickly called out to the dog that came up and took the key from the cat. This shows that she was not content to live her life the way she was. If she were content, then she never would have tried to escape from the bedroom in the first place. Calling for the dog was the most that Cinderella could do since she obviously couldn’t knock the door down. Kolbenschlag’s point can be disputed with the same reason as Yolen’s. Cinderella had no choice but to do the chores because she knew the consequences of not doing them. If someone is participating in work that they like, then that is the reward in itself. However, in Cinderella’s case, she was basically a slave. Thus, of course she kept doing her chores in hope of a better life.
Kolbenschlag claims that Cinderella is a passive young woman who patiently waits to be rescued. The whole tale has the subliminal message of sex-role stereotyping. The woman is to wait for her knight in shining in armor while the man is to rescue the beautiful girl from her horrible life. Cinderella had to change herself into the perfect woman to get the prince (Kolbenschlag, 537). Yolen claims that the old Cinderella was not passive, but the new “America’s Cinderella” is a helpless dreamer who awaits rescue from her enslavement (Yolen, 539). If one looks closely at the tale of “Cinderella,” he/she will see that Cinderella does not accept her predicament. She just does not choose to take a malicious route in rising out of her life of enslavement. Cinderella does take a more sensible route and seeks out the man of her dreams at the royal ball.
Finally, in her essay, Kolbenschlag states that Cinderella should have ran away or sabotaged the family. Instead, she keeps performing the meaningless tasks her stepmother assigns to her (Kolbenschlag, 535). Yolen agrees as she promotes the ancient stories of “Cinderella” because of the revenge on her stepmother and stepsisters (Yolen, 542). Running away and revenge are not qualities that most parents want to have in a story that their child is reading. Although most children’s lives are not as burdensome as Cinderella’s, they sometimes see things from a different perspective. If a child’s parents tell him they can not do something they wanted to do, the child may think that he has the meanest parents in the world. Hence, he might say Cinderella ran away, so I can too because he/she sees his/her life just as unpleasant as Cinderella’s. Most parents do not want their children watching or reading a story with lots of blood in gore in it either. In fact, Cinderella makes an excellent role model. She obeys her guardian and does not resort childish acts of violence and revenge.
Although Jane Yolen and Madonna Kolbenschlag both made a good argument claiming that Cinderella was a helpless and pitiful excuse for a heroine, not all of their ideas were completely accurate. Cinderella did not accept her predicament and strived to have a better life. She got her man by making the trip to the ball. As a final thought, hopefully “Cinderella” is a tale that children and grown-ups of all ages will continue to enjoy for many years to come.