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The Good Life between Fairy Tales and poetry
What I am going to talk to you about in this essay is the similarity of two very famous works, “Cinderella by the Brothers Grimm” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates”. I chose these two works for the fact that after reading them I came to the point of thinking that they are full of sexism and how women should be treated and socially denigrated. Not everyone thinks it’s a plausible thing especially because I’m talking about Cinderella, but pay attention to my words, maybe later with some more research you will be able to find even some parts of the story even worse of what I found.
Cinderella oppressed by her father and his new wife was forced to perform tasks that were traditional to women at that time, such as cooking and cleaning. Reading this masterpiece, we can understand that history does not allow solidarity among the women of the fairy tale, and that the stepmother is represented as a “monster”.
The stepmother was willing to do anything for her daughters, in order to obtain a higher level in their social life, opposed to the hardship in store for Cinderella, her stepmother towards her was abusive and redeems Cinderella to the point that she cannot benefit from a better social life. Cinderella’s stepsisters are represented as characters without personality other than cruel and greedy.
It would seem that for them, having a beautiful dress and being beautiful is the only way to rival social powers and live in happiness. In other words, if Cinderella had been ugly, she would have been turned away from being socially powerful but being beautiful is the only way for a woman to have power.
Cinderella, rather than exert an innocent story where a girl can fulfill their desires, it is instead a very misogynistic story where she represents women as cruel, greedy and passive. And it also suggests that the best way to move forward in this world is to leave yourself to abuse and wait for someone else to come to your rescue.
Fairy Tales said simply, is a way for literature to support certain ethics about the society of time. These stories told, are considered harmless stories and are made available to a hearing of children at a young age, with the intent of dominating their minds. Social ethics are made available to the audience through the characters of the fairy tale, which is perfectly understood what is “right” or “wrong”. In fact, the American literature itself is masculine in order to better interpret the American literature and to understand the patriarchalism of the time, but fairy tales are put before the school even before children, so it is also necessary to create female main characters, to make girls understand their place in society. To make this clear to the girls before their formation as something quite bleak. In a few words forces young girls how to behave in society and eliminate the factor of questioning the traditions of the time, which could show up in old age. So, the introduction of these ethics since childhood should, according to the society, eliminate every single hypothesis against it. If the girls identify themselves with any main character, such as Cinderella, we can easily understand that there is no need for a feminine literature since everything that this character will do will be fair and equitable. Cinderella is the perfect example for a girl to identify herself with a character. Beautiful, quiet, an angelic girl in a nutshell. On the other hand, we have some characters in which girls will never identify themselves, because they are considered of bad character or as the Grimm Brothers say “Monsters”, referred to the sisters and stepmother of Cinderella.
Returning to the differences of characters, Cinderella regarding the physical appearance is very beautiful and radiant while the other characters are dark, and unattractive.
Cinderella also has a huge magical bond with the animals, feeding them, dressing them, defending them also by talking to them. This brings her a deep connection with nature and makes us understand how a correct woman should be. These actions make me think a lot, in a nutshell you are training these girls on how they would behave in the future.
The stepmother is a very intriguing and frank but at the same time evil character who obliges the beautiful, graceful Cinderella to servitude and obedience. The stepmother unlike Cinderella also has the female symbols but are considered subversives, precisely because of this gloomy character.
Cinderella on the other hand is completely different, leads to subversion, modesty, altruism and makes us understand how a woman should be. Regardless of how Cinderella was treated badly by both her stepmother and her stepsisters, she continued to serve them through housework, taking care of the whole family, which makes it clear that a “real woman” should devote herself without any resentment to the good of others.
Here comes the prince, a handsome man who always pleases you, Cinderella obviously falls in love with him and her life will change completely and will finally be complete. But let’s go back a little, the first time Cinderella meets the prince, she is at a ball held at the Prince’s castle. Here we can see how the prince behaves in a very possessive way, but at the same time shows the importance and pride of himself, and for his appearance.
Obviously, the prince falls in love with her, just because she is the most beautiful moment in the room, the one to whom he is interested is the physical appearance. We can immediately see how many requests received for Cinderella to dance, but all rejected just because the prince did not allow it, make us notice, Cinderella change of “property”, to be owned by the father to that of the prince, does not even know the name of Cinderella, how can such a thing without even a dialogue do not make this story reflective.
The dance in other words is also an excuse for Cinderella to marry the prince, and finally leave that house of greed and cruelty. But something is not entirely convincing; the prince who does not recognize the beautiful Cinderella, the removal of the prince along with two other women before her and announces that he will marry the woman who will wear this shoe. So, in a nutshell, a marriage without true love, but a marriage based on appearance. Now my question is the following, maybe a couple like that can be happy because in those times the marriage for a woman was something of happiness. But after a few years, at that point what happens? How can they continue to live happily as everything can be destroyed in a second?
The triumph of Cinderella on the stepmother and the stepsisters makes us understand this but at the same time shows that these are the true feminine qualities, those that repeat and go proud. Fairy tales always have a happy ending and therefore the good that defeats the bad guy, but this gives a wrong sense of reality, in which the young girls identify themselves in that innocent and holy character.
For each portrait of women subjected to domesticity, there is an equally negative portrait that depicts the evil, the so-called “monster” or in this situation the stepmother.
Cinderella in the end is a fairy tale that emphasizes the roles of patriarchal gender and leads the woman to have a dominant personality to play the part of the villain.
What makes me think most of all is the fact that many girls identify themselves in Cinderella, and then wait for their prince charming to arrive, as Cinderella, in their lives and accept submission and domesticity.
Another very important case regarding sexism can be found in another fiction called “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? By Joyce Carol Oates”.
At the beginning of the story we can see how Connie, the protagonist of the story, is obsessed with her appearance and the not good method of approaching the boys. Connie’s mother projects to us like a woman who loves Connie’s sister only because she’s the cutest of the two. This also makes us understand in this story how women are valued for their appearance and not for their personality.
Connie’s life is simply limited to shopping, going out with friends who are more or less like her and trying to meet some guys.
When Connie’s father left her and her friend at the Shopping Plaza, the two girls immediately headed for the restaurant across the street, a restaurant where older kids used to spend time. Their intent was simple, to talk with the nicest guy there was. And this leads to Connie’s major concern, which is that going around looking for a man is their primary goal. Continuing with the story we can see how Connie can know a guy named Eddie where he spent a good deal of hours sitting in his car talking. The character of Connie is very strange, he does not care at all the character of Eddie, but just the fact that he is nice and has a nice car. His goal is to be with a boy, any guy is fine, this leads us to think about some things, we are trying to give a wrong idea of the woman, and that of having at all costs a husband who procures a future and a family? Instead of finding someone with whom you have things in common that you can share and be happy with yourself and your partner? This makes us understand that the basic idea of the woman is to want only a husband and a family and if you do not have this you are considered a failure for society.
While Connie’s family was away for a barbecue, which Connie did not want to attend, so a car appears in front of his house, the driver is a man who is given the name of “Friend of Arnold” that he saw Connie that day at the restaurant with Eddie. The driver immediately tries to convince Connie to get in the car where he finds a friend of the driver Ellie. We can see how the car in question is full of slogans such as “Done by a crazy woman driver”. In my opinion such a slogan as it may sound funny, can also make us what is really behind, as for example that Arnold does not respect women and that men are superior, another very ambiguous phrase is when Arnold tells Connie that she is his love, that she does not yet know what this signifies and that she will understand it as soon as possible. The cruelest thing that you can hear instead is the following “I will be inside you where it’s all secret and you will give it to me and you will love me”, just reading this sentence makes you understand all Arnold’s interactions, that is, using Connie only as a sexual object, the strange thing is that Arnold continues by pretending that at first she cannot like something like that, but that in the end she will begin to love it once it’s done.
Reading the whole story in full, we find ourselves faced with a concept of how macabre and dark, men are and shows that the man can do what they want, sexually speaking, to a woman.
This also leads us to a strange fact regarding the female gender and that is enough that a man is in love with you and then you can accept sexual requests, and everything will be fine?
I absolutely do not think that if you fall in love with a woman, even if it is true love you have the right to make sexual requests, women are our own copy and we must treat them as we would like to be treated by others, without any distinction.
Returning to the story of Connie, she tries to get as far away from Arnold as she can, and immediately runs into the house with the thought of calling the police, Arnold so calmly puts the facts in front of him saying that he would not follow her home, Connie caught in fear, she locked everything up, but Arnold, still trying to persuade her, tells him that there is no reason to lock himself up because the front door will not keep him out. Connie, seized by fear but also by curiosity, asked Arnold what would happen but above all what he had done to him if he had accepted the request, and Arnold in his quiet answers him with one of the most horrendous phrases that can be said, “Just two things, or maybe three But I promised it won’t last long.” This makes it clear, without a shadow of doubt, that some men think only of their sexual pleasure and that they do not pay the slightest attention if the woman is in favor of it.
Connie does not resist these last words and then tries to get the phone, so Arnold slipped into the house. Connie caught in fear collapses on the floor with no force even to dial the number that would have brought the police, Arnold was there, standing in front of the door and with a tone set told him to put the phone in place, obviously Connie without forces and without rebelling, he obeyed without even answering and followed him out. This part of the story makes it clear that even by trying, Connie cannot resist giving way to Arnold’s weakness and submission. This highlight, what, some women are willing to suffer in their lives but above all to be controlled by men.
The story of Connie makes us understand how a woman easily manages to lose her independence against men, in this case Connie loses her independence to go with Arnold.
The final concept of the story, which is very reflective, is the fact that women leave their lives in the hands of men, submitting themselves both sexually and not, and this leaves everything under the control of men. Which in my opinion does not make any sense just because we men are not superior to anyone, but we are all the same.
- Oates, Joyce Carol, and Elaine Showalter. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”. Rutgers Univeristy Press, 1994.
- Dowling, Colette. “The Cinderella Complex: Women”s Hidden Fear of Independece.” New York: Summit Books, 1981. Print.
- Newton, Judith Lowder, and Deborah Rosenfelt, editors. “Feminist Criticism and Social Change: Sex, Class, and Race in Literature and Culture.” Methuen, 1985.
- Benjamin, Jessica. “The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, Sexim, and the Problem of Domination”. N.p, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2013.
- Maass, Vera Sonja. “The Cinderella Test: Would You Really Want the Shoe to Fit? Subtle Ways Women Are Seduced and Socialized in to Servitude and Stereotypes.” Praeger, 2009.
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