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Analyzing Cinderella by Anne Sexton

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    Cinderella is a childhood fairytale that we all love and remember. It is a tragedy that turns into love and happily ever after in the end. In contrast to this popular story, Anne Sexton’s version of Cinderella is a dark and twisted version of the classic fairy tale. It takes on a whole new perspective and is fairly different from the childhood fairytale that most of society knows. The poem takes less of a focus on the happy ever after in Cinderella and makes it into vivid bloody and violent images. She retreats more toward the pain and neglect.

    The poem is not based off the Disney version of Cinderella, but rather original dark version by Brothers Grimm. Sexton uses a very sarcastic and ironic tone and mocks the unrealistic “rags to riches” stories. The use of irony and sarcasm makes the genre of the poem satirical poetry. The poem is a modern, free verse poem that contains nine stanzas. Sexton leads in with four short stories that use repetition as a literary device to verify her version of Cinderella. She uses these stanzas to say that the stories are all myths just like Cinderella.

    Anne Sexton uses many literary devices such as irony, similes, metaphors, repetition, and symbolism and the idea or social issues to portray that the story of Cinderella is unrealistic. For Sexton, the ‘happily ever after’ that society chases after does not exist. Anne Sexton wrote this poem to show that fairy tales are not real. This kind of life does not exist in the real world. No matter how hard one tries to ? nd this fantasy, it will never happen. She mocks this poem to show that this is a dream world and society goes after this illusion in their head that will never come true because it is a fantasy.

    In our current society, children are brain washed into thinking that everything in life is always ? ne and dandy when in reality, it is not always great and happy. Sexton starts the poem off with a sarcastic tone saying, “You always read about it”, and then tells stories of unrealistic “rags to riches” stories. This sarcastic tone is used throughout the rest of the poem. The use of this tone is irony for what comes throughout the poem and the last stanza. The last stanza describes what the “happily ever after” life is like between the prince and Cinderella.

    She writes that how they are perfect and how they never argued or aged. Her sarcasm enforces that these things all come with relationships and there will always be bumps on the road. The perfect relationship does not exist and therefore, there is never a permanent happily ever after. Some symbolism and themes used in this poem would be jealousy and animals. Jealousy plays a big part in this story through everyone. Cinderella was always jealous of her stepmother and sisters because of the love they obtained from her father. All she ever got was neglect and abuse and they got love and riches.

    In the poem it states, “Her father brought presents home from town, jewels and gowns for the other women but the twig of a tree for Cinderella”. This shows that the father treated Cinderella like nothing and her stepmother and stepsisters were placed on some type of pedestal and were spoiled with love and gifts. Although you would think the stepmother and stepsisters would be content with their lifestyle, they envied Cinderella and did not let her go to the ball. They made her their servant and always had her do their dirty work.

    Once Cinderella gets her love and prince charming, the sisters were so jealous of her love and riches that they came and pleaded for forgiveness. Cinderella did not allow their pity and a dove pecked their eyes out in protection of her. This is where the symbolism comes in. The white dove is symbolic of her dead mother because Cinderella “Planted that twig on her mother’s grave and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat”. The dove is a symbol for love and protection. Her father, stepmother, and stepsisters rejected her so she turned to the white dove to lead her in the right direction.

    The dove would bring all sorts of gifts and would “drop it like an egg upon the ground. ” This shows that she ? nds her way through the dove ful? lling her wishes. The dove and his friends are a source of protection for Cinderella. The dove gathered up all his friends and helped her pick up the lentils that her stepmother threw, just so she could attend the ball. Near the end of the story, when the sisters “came to curry favor”, the dove pecked their eyes out. Sexton uses vivid descriptions and literary devices to develop imagery.

    The similes used such as, “Cried forth like a gospel singer”, “Fit into the shoe like a love letter into its envelope”, and “like two dolls in a museum case” really helped form an image in my mind. The descriptive detail displayed images in your head instead of just reading words. The way Sexton worded the line, “All but Cinderella were preparing and gussying up for the event”, played an image in my mind of girls freaking out and stressing about looking perfect for the prince. The images of the sister cutting off their big toe and heal were very vivid.

    Especially when the dove told the prince to “look at the blood pouring fourth”, and the use of a simile and personi? cation in the lines, “They don’t just heal up like a wish” and “The other sister cut off her heel but the blood told as blood will”. Another vigorous image was when the bird took out the sisters eyes. Sexton used the simile, “Two hollow spots were left like soup spoons”. It leaves a gruesome image in your mind of the violence that the bird played. This poem also re? ects Anne Sexton’s personal life. She had a very traumatizing childhood. Both of her parents were alcoholics and often neglected her.

    She had the thoughts that her parents were going to abandon her. Her mother was not a stable parent and was in a different state of mind. This could be the reason why she wrote about the love Cinderella’s mother had for her because she longed for the love and attention from her parents. While Anne got sexually abused by her father, Anne’s sisters were treated with love and care. The only person that did not neglect her and treated her with love was her grandmother. As one can see, Sexton has a lot of similarities with Cinderella. Cinderella was abused and neglected by her family just like Sexton was.

    This can be portrayed by the stepmothers and stepsisters ruthlessness toward Cinderella. The sexual abuse by her father can be interpreted in the poem as the lack of the father Cinderella had. Also, Sexton’s father showed love towards her sisters just as Cinderella’s father showed love to her stepsisters. A social issue that is very big and trending is a woman’s image in society. Cinderella could not go to the ball because she did not have clothes to wear. She could not go as herself because the prince would have immediately rejected her because of who she really is and what family she comes from.

    The white dove supplied her with a gold dress (which represents wealth) and slippers . Now that she is dressed accordingly, she could go to the ball. The prince would have never picked her if she had not been wearing that dress and got fancied up for the ball. If he knew that she was Cinderella, he would have also rejected her without thinking twice about it. Furthermore without a disguise, she most likely would not have the guts to approach the prince because she felt as if she would not be worthy of him. “Beauty is pain,” is a popular phrase among women that is used to show what lengths a woman will go through to be beautiful.

    In the poem Cinderella, beauty is pain is taken to a whole new level. One stepsister cut off her big toe and the other cut off her heel just so they could ? t into the slipper. They caused themselves this much pain just to be with this so called ‘prince charming. ‘ The sacri? ces and the willingness of women to change their appearances to impress men is unbelievable. A woman will go through hell and back just to get a guy. In today’s society, everyone has the pressure placed upon them to be beautiful, sexy, pretty, etc. The media has a major impact on the way women see themselves.

    Women already suffer the comparisons of themselves with their peers but the media takes it to an entire knew level when women compare themselves with models. The media portrays the ideal woman as long haired, tall, skinny, and perfect skin. This makes women feel obligated to work their way into transforming into the perfect woman. Women have gone through different lengths to be the ‘ideal woman’ that every man wants. From plastic surgery to waxing, permanent makeup, dieting, and fake tanning, women would do anything to appeal beautiful to men. The ideal woman is an unrealistic, high standard and is very dif? ult standard to live up to. The society makes it seem that if you do not live up to this expectation, you are not accepted and beautiful. (Kasey L. Serdar, n. d. )             Anne Sexton utilizes the idea of using sarcasm to portray that the Disney version of Cinderella is unrealistic. With her use of literary devices and sarcasm, she shows the differences between Disney’s version and her version. The Disney version is a about a girl that is neglected and is a servant by everyone. She meets the prince and wins his love over her stepsisters and they live happily ever after. The End.

    In Anne Sexton’s version, it is the same story but much more bloody and violent and she ends with mocking how Cinderella and the prince do not go through the everyday, real life struggles that a normal relationship goes through. She mocks how they are timeless, how they do not argue, and how they do not age. Sexton brings about the social issue of a woman’s image in society. She talks about how a woman with go to great lengths to change herself for a man. The media makes it so that there is an ideal image of a woman and whoever does not meet the standards are not accepted to today’s society.

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