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Fairy Tales - Research Paper Example

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In every retelling of Cinderella’s story, one character is always depicted the same way. Be it in books or in movies, Cinderella’s stepmother is always portrayed as a mean and cunning woman who does not show one bit of affection for her stepdaughter. In Hansel and Gretel, the children’s stepmother is described as abusive and able to convince her husband to leave his children in the woods so the couple could save on food…
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Fairy Tales
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Download file to see previous pages Indeed, in fairy tales, the stepmother is usually mean, deceitful and incapable of loving her stepchildren. In this day and age when divorce, separation and single parenthood make having a stepmother a fact of life, it is a wonder why fairy tale stepmothers are still stereotyped as such. Moreover, because of how common having a stepmother is nowadays, it is curious to know how these evil depictions may influence the relationship of today’s children with their stepmothers. One reason behind the evil stepmother character is history, supposedly. Author Maria Warner writes that fairy tales may be influenced by the happenings in society during the time the stories were written. Death at childbirth was common in earlier times so having a new mother was a usual occurrence. Warner believes that making the stepmother wicked in fairy tales served as a warning for readers during that time and points to real-life tragedies where an offspring is killed so the stepmother’s child can inherit the father’s riches. (Sellers) Another explanation for this depiction comes from Bruno Bettelheim and other critics who have psycho-analyzed fairy tales. According to this group, the portrait of an evil stepmother is actually a projection of the bad side a good mother has. (Tatar) Supposedly, an individual does not feel as guilty hating the bad qualities of one’s mom epitomized by the malevolent stepmother. With this image of a mother’s evilness, “mom” is able to remain the loving and good-natured parent, always wanting the best for her child. Writer Patricia Watson shares that in Europe during the writing of Hansel and Gretel, peasants abandoned their children because they did not have enough food to feed them (Watson) and thus it was easier to hate a “stepmom” for this. It is noteworthy, too, how the stepmother is made to be jealous of her stepdaughter’s beauty or good qualities. In Snow White, the Evil Queen who is vain becomes angry when her magic mirror says its famous line: “Snow White is the fairest of all.” (Grimm) Her anger led her to think of ways on how to get rid of Snow White in her world. Wanting to look pretty and young is not a problem and cannot e viewed as a mistake on the stepmother’s side. Everyone wants to look young and good. What made her evil though is her banishing of Snow White from the castle and trying to kill her. Although having a bad stepmother may be common in this age of divorce and separation, it has not been a regular occurrence for stepmothers to kill their stepdaughter or stepson. In Cinderella, the vain stepmother forces Cinderella to work in her own house, maybe in an attempt to make the pretty stepdaughter dirty-looking and unpleasant. She also makes it hard for Cinderella to attend the Prince’s ball by giving her so many chores and then locking the child up in her room. (Cinderella) In 2007, a self-study about the relationship of a stepmother and stepdaughter was released to the public. The researchers were members of one family who exemplified one of the most common contemporary family structures – a stepfamily. The researchers discovered that the “wicked stepmother” title is most times brought about by anger that the biological child cannot express towards the biological mother and by negative stereotypes that the child hears. (Strawn and Knox) This research is important. It ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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