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Deconstructing Cinderella

When nothing really challenging comes to mind, all I do is harp on something, no matter how childish it is, that makes my mind get rid of the day's tension.

I miss the radicalism in the intellectual arena. However, I don't have a choice but stay in a K-12 rural school that requires daily lesson plans (multiplied by three preparations) due on Monday mornings instead of creative and innovative workloads for everyone's benefit.

How childish is childish? I started challenging myself with something only children of my child's age can understand. However, I made a little swing -- destroying it to make it more understandable to adults who struggle for life in an intensely pressure-laden environment. Here it is -- the story of Cinderella, coupled with a head-smashing criticisms to challenge my readers' sensibility!

Charles Perrault

Just in case you have forgotten her after years of purposely forgetting a childhood bedtime character, Cinderella is a young woman living with her step mother and two step sisters. She works as a servant for them and caters to their every need. She does all the cooking and cleaning, and is treated like a servant. The step sisters are very mean.

When the Prince of the Village sends out invitations to a ball held in his honor to all the villagers, Cinderella begs to go but her step mother will not let her.

The night of the ball arrives, and the sisters and mother laugh and leave. Cinderella cries and wishes she could attend also. At that moment her Fairy God Mother appears and uses her magic so that Cinderella can attend, giving her a dress, glass slippers, and turning a pumpkin into a carriage. She also informs Cinderella that this spell will only last until midnight.

Cinderella goes off onto the ball, and while she is there she attracts quite a bit of attention especially from the Prince. The two dance all night, till Cinderella hears the clock chime. She remembers what her god mother said, and dashes off, leaving only a slipper behind. The Prince desperate to find this mystery woman has his assistant go to all the women of the village to find its owner.

Just when all hope is gone the assistant tries the slipper on the step sisters and despite a hard effort the shoe does not fit. Cinderella then tries on the shoe and it fits perfectly shocking everyone, especially her step sisters and evil step mother.

Cinderella marries her Prince Charming and lives happily ever after.

Deconstructing Cinderella

The fairytale is a material that was obviously meant to entertain the nobility class of Charles Perrault’s times. It provides a pleasurable feeling that doesn’t force the brain to exert so much effort; instead, it stirs curiosity and interest among the physically and emotionally tired. This is an example of what most people in the urban setting believes to be a “stress reliever”. The fairy tale suggests that a reader, or a listener, simply “sit back and relax”.

Cinderella is about a young woman who suffers a lot from a mean family (consisting of a stepmother and two stepsisters). She is treated like a servant in a house where she believes to be her home. The character is a role model of a typical woman who embraces simplicity, humility and beauty. Cinderella is a woman who sacrifices one’s happiness in the hope of receiving benefits of greater value in return.

Modern literary critiques, however, believe that Cinderella is a lame duck who depends primarily upon what others can do (the Fairy Godmother). She lacks the courage to assert herself. She could have stopped the “harassment” of the mean family at an early stage and have her dignity emerge by bringing about change through her assertiveness. A typical woman in the old world is not likely to survive in this challenging modern generation with such cowardice.

The fairytale is a food that feeds a hungry mind. It entertains, but does not encourage readers to climb to greater heights of appreciating challenges and struggles in real life. Although it provides a moral lesson that the simple, humble, and beautiful will be rewarded in the end, it doesn’t lead readers to a direction where this lesson can be transformed into real action.

Cinderella is truly a “Disney” story: it carries a happy ending “…and they lived happily ever after”. But does real life necessarily lead to a happy ending? Are there princes for every ‘enslaved’ lady? Do we have fairy godmothers who are at the rescue any time we need them?

The story is indeed about a character who maintains a “helpless” personality. Letting the mean family enslave her, waiting for her ideal prince to come, and allowing the fairy godmother to let her enjoy a temporary “perfect world” that will vanish at midnight are manipulations that are not within her control.

In the real world, equitable justice means punishing who deserve to be punished. The wicked stepmother and the mean stepsisters have not received any similar penalty that anyone like them deserves. On the contrary, in the [Christian] human world, forgiveness is of moral significance. In the story, the humble Cinderella has not shown any sense of forgiveness nor has subjected her perpetrators into severe penalty.

The story of Cinderella could be a chapter of a novel. “And they lived happily ever after” could be the chapter’s last line, but not definitely a statement that would put an end to a real-life story. What happens to Cinderella a few years from the time of her marriage to the prince may have been different from what happened on the night they first saw each other.

Here is your reward after a nose-bleeding moment of reading. LOL! Click the link below.


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