One of the fundamental stories in fairy tale studies is “Cinderella”: folkloric designation ATU 510A, the Persecuted Heroine. As Fairy tale and Folklore studies continue to evolve, authors beyond Basile, Perrault and Grimm are added into the Cinderella canon to lend a more nuanced approach to the study of this fairy tale. Yet “Cinderella” is still often interpreted as a tale of feminine submissiveness, in which the heroine is little more than a passive ornament or else a likeable social-climber. These interpretations stem largely from the focus of “Cinderella” stories written by men. Though studies of “Cinderella” are expanding, “Cendrillon”, “Aschenputtel”, and Walt Disney’s Cinderella remain the foundational tales that are thought of when “Cinderella” is mentioned.
This research addresses the problem that female writers of “Cinderella” remain marginalized within analyses of the tale. This research considers five versions of “Cinderella” from the seventeenth century to the twentieth century, from women authors, mediated in five different formats: literary fairy tale, novel, short story, and poetry. Mme D’Aulnoy’s “Finette Cendron” and Mlle L’Héritier’s “L’Adroite Princesse ou les Aventures de Finette,” protofeminist literary fairy tales from seventeenth-century France, present Cinderellas who hail from the birth of the modern fairy tale but show personalities that most do not associate with the princess. D’Aulnoy and L’Héritier’s Finettes are dutiful to their family and kingdom, but aggressively pursue their ambitions and secure for themselves both high-status as well as fulfilling futures.
Jane Austen’s eighteenth-century novel Persuasion brings a sharp contrast to traditional views of the fairy helper. Louisa May Alcott’s “A Modern Cinderella: or, The Little Old Shoe” is an American Romantic short story originally published in a little magazine which paints a different perspective on the desires of a nineteenth-century Anglo-women in a Prince. Austen’s and Alcott’s stories give voice to how they perceive the place women are given in the world and their hostility to the patriarchal structures of their society allude to the rise of ‘Defense of Women’ literature during their period. Austen and Alcott highlight the restrictions that women face, but do not resign women to the fate of subjugation; instead they insist that women should decide their own fate and never settle for less than they are owed.
“…And Then the Prince Knelt Down and Tried to Put the Glass Slipper on Cinderella’s Foot,” a poem by Judith Viorst from the 1980s, challenges the traditional expectations of the Cinderella cycle. At the sunset of the twentieth century, the poem challenges the typical Cinderella motifs and recursive narrative devices with a second-wave feminist perspective on women’s perceptions of their ideas on romantic love and self-love and offers a Cinderella who speaks with her own voice.
This research looks at women’s culture using the lens of socio-cultural and historical approaches, feminist theory, and global studies to provide insight into each tale. Women authors use the Cinderella tale-type to express the idealized woman, reject literary stereotypes about women, and reveal women’s attitude toward love and marriage in their respective cultures. Women who add to the Cinderella cycle use the heroine of their story to assert that women are capable of managing their own affairs and determining their future.
Cinderella is adapted to present the image of a woman who successfully navigates her society to seize a fulfilling future. The concept of a ‘fulfilling future’ is one that begins in magnanimity and evolves into Cinderellas who expect ‘princes’ to show caring natures or who reject princes who do not meet their expectations. Feminine identity is embodied through retellings of Cinderella in relation to her sisters, her Fairy, her Prince and women’s attitudes about their social identity and voice. By considering these previously overlooked contributors to the Cinderella narrative, this research provides different perspectives into women’s perceptions of power, autonomy, and love and asks important questions about how women use “Cinderella” to claim their voice.
Trinquet du Lys, Charlotte
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Modern Languages and Literatures
Kurronen, Farrah V., "If The Shoe Fits: Cinderella and Women's Voice" (2019). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 637.