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Cinderella: A Literary Analysis

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The story of Cinderella is a timeless classic that characterizes the different aspects of historical writing. Many later variations of the story derive their origin from classic antiquity, one being possibly the earliest version recorded in the first century BC from the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis. Rhodopis washes her clothes in an Ormoc stream, a task forced upon her by fellow servants, who have left to go to a function sponsored by the Pharaoh Amasis. An eagle takes her rose-gilded sandal and drops it at the feet of the Pharaoh in the city of Memphis; he then asks the women of his kingdom to try on the sandal to see which one fits. Rhodopis succeeds. The Pharaoh falls in love with her, and she marries him. Another early version of the story, Ye Xian, appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Tuan Ch’eng-Shih around A.D. 860. Here the hardworking and lovely girl befriends a fish, the reincarnation of her mother who was killed by her stepmother. Ye Xian saves the bones, which are magic, and they help her dress appropriately for a festival.

When she loses her slipper after a fast exit, the king finds her and falls in love with her. Both variations share the same general style of plot, where a young virtuous woman is hardworking and of low social standing, and overcomes the obstacles that she faces with the help of a guide. All further variations adhere to this general plot. All of the different styles of the story follow the Monomyth Cycle, and this is more easily discerned in the later versions of it. The main character is born to a low class or placed in a lowered situation, but born with a certain peculiarity, mostly where the size of her foot matching the size of the footwear. There is a call to adventure that the Cinderella figure hears and embarks on, most notable a royal ball she is to attend or an event she desires to attend and participate in. The protagonist is usually helped at this point by a guide of some sort, who gives Cinderella the tools and means to complete her quest.

This supernatural aid comes in many forms, such as a beautiful dress and carriage to attend a ball where Cinderella could not garner the same items by herself. There are several tests that she must undergo, and surpass. In Charles Perrault’s Cinderella, she must serve her sisters and act accordingly at the balls she attends. The resulting climax would be the ball where she looses her shoe, which also leads her to flee it. Finally, the story follows the return by Cinderella returning to put on the shoe and marry the prince. The characters usually follow a specific rule where there is a prince or king figure as the attraction for Cinderella, a helper figure that takes many forms, the most well known being a fairy godmother and in all of the editions the gender of Cinderella is universally the same; that is, Cinderella is a female. The fact that Cinderella is a female gives a strong basis to the means by which her freedom or enlightenment is gained. Historically, female protagonists have for a large part been able to overcome their problems and obstacles to be saved by another figure; in this case usually a prince or king. They in a sense gain their freedom in becoming tied to a male.

This is evident in many of the Cinderella tales, for to complete her quest she must marry a ruling figure. The setting of the different versions differs greatly over actual placement in the world, as well as immediate setting such as forest or desert or mountains. However, the general setting that remains relatively constant is the setting of where the Cinderella figure lives and works; it is one of lower quality. She does not live in luxury. The theme of Cinderella is one of positive tone; try to achieve. It can also state that even though someone can receive help to achieve something, it is up to that person to actually do the work. There could also be another example of when a person is in a tough situation, they should not be hopeless because they can never know that their life will stay the same, and a helper will give them the tools to make a new life for them self. The moral tone is quite straightforward in many of the variations, which is virtue will pay off.

The Cinderella from Charles Perrault’s adaptation shows this quite clearly, where the message in that story is virtue, hard work and forgiveness are vital for accomplishment for his Cinderella exemplifies these qualities throughout the story. There are many insights to the story of Cinderella, one being an insight into the lives of poorly kept servants and slaves. It shows that not all servants and slaves are bad by reputation, and one can be a virtuous person, relatively speaking, anywhere. Another is that with the proper help, achieving what we hope for is only a matter of time and willingness to try. Finally, one more insight is that beauty is an excellent aspect to have, but it is the morals and virtues that a person possess that make them get farther in life, for who wants to help an unvirtuous person succeed when there is a much better person who could do so? The lesson to the story of Cinderella is a good life and hard work will lead to happiness.



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