On Anne Sexton’s Cinderella

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

1. How different is Anne Sexton’s Cinderella to Disney’s version? To the Grimm Brothers’ version?

Anne Sexton’s Cinderella has a quite different story from Disney’s version but has the same story as that of the Grimm Brothers’ version. What makes it different from the latter is that it is amusing and it has a sarcastic tone. The persona exaggerated Cinderella’s description as “looking like Al Jolson” [32] (who performed in black face makeup). She described the ball wherein the prince was looking for a wife as a “marriage market” [42]. She had several other witty comments and descriptions of the people and events in the poem.

The persona in the poem is assuming that the audience already knows the story and that they probably have even read it many times. He is downgrading the fairy tale to a cliché story, believing everyone knows the flow of events in the story. Also, the sarcastic tone in the poem ridicules the rags-to-riches story and the overused “happy ever after” ending.

Sexton’s Cinderella is grimmer and “more adult” than Disney’s version in that it contains blood and violence. Disney’s version provides a perfect and happy ending to the story but Sexton’s version mocks this happiness and perfection.

Another thing which sets apart Anne Sexton’s Cinderella from Disney’s version and Grimm brothers’ version is how Cinderella was portrayed. In the poem, Cinderella was less polite. She “begged to go [to the ball]” [46] and “cried forth like a gospel singer: … send me to the prince’s ball!” [57-59]

 

2. What literary devices (imagery, figures of speech, irony) does the poet use in telling her version of the story?

Anne Sexton used an ironic and sarcastic tone in portraying her version of Cinderella. This irony questioned the idea of perfection and happy endings. She also used simile, metaphor and hyperbole in making witty remarks and comparisons.

 

3. Which version do you like most? Explain your answer.

I prefer the version made by Anne Sexton not only because it is amusing and entertaining, but also because it reflects reality. In Disney’s and Grimm brothers’ versions, the ending of the story was happy without doubt and seemed to suggest that the characters never again experienced negative feelings and happenings. In Sexton’s version, the last stanza creates a bump in the ending – a mockery in the idea of a perfect relationship.

Also, in Sexton’s version, I saw some absurdities in the story like the “marriage market” [42] where the prince was hoping to find a girl whom he will marry and the prince’s oblivion to the true owner of the shoe. How could he forget Cinderella’s face and just assume that whoever’s foot fits the shoe is Cinderella and the one whom he will become his wife? He should have recognized who was Cinderella and who was not. This tells me that the prince is quick to judge and conclude without first asking himself if he was doing things right.

 

4. Discuss the importance of the first four stanzas.

The first four stanzas of the poem contain four different versions of the rags-to-riches story. The first line of the poem, “You always read about it:” [1] and the phrase, “That story” in the end of three of the stories suggest a cynical tone of the persona. It sounds as if the four stories are so cliché and happens so often that it tends to destroy the value of the rags-to-riches story.

Also, the first four stanzas set the tone and mood of the poem. They tell the same story of someone not too well-off and by some chance, become rich in just a short time. In just a matter of time, they experience something low to something luxurious. This tells the audience that the story of Cinderella ends happily because of some bizarre happening and chance, not because of hard work.

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Sunstroke and The Chemist’s Wife are both good short stories by Russian writers, Ivan Bunin and Anton Chekhov. They have similarities and differences in terms of writing style and content. I’ll be comparing and contrasting the protagonists’ characteristics in the two stories and also take a look at the themes.

Comparison

The unnamed protagonist in Sunstroke and Tchernomordik’s wife in The Chemist’s Wife both have strong personal desires. The man in the first story wanted to be with the girl he just recently met and slept with. The wife of the chemist, meanwhile, wanted the attention and the feeling of importance from her husband.

Both of the protagonists in the story felt depression. In Sunstroke, he felt the bleakness after the girl left him; in The Chemist’s Wife, the wife was depressed at the start of the story, felt better as the story progressed, but became depressed again as the story ended. The protagonists were both deeply thinking and reflecting about the situation they are in.

The protagonist in each story was not able to suppress their depression in the end because there was no indication of happiness or contentment in the conclusion of the story. Both of them felt like there is still a hole that should be filled for them to achieve contentment. They felt like something must be done or something must happen in order for them to be happy.

Their happiness was temporary. The man in Sunstroke felt fulfilled at the time when he was with the woman. He also had hope that he could contact her by sending her a telegram, only to realize that he doesn’t know her name.  The chemist’s wife felt happy when she was talking and drinking with Obtyosov and the other doctor.

The Sunstroke protagonist viewed his life negatively. He was kind of jealous of other people who were just hanging around, relaxed and without a trace of something bothering them. The The Chemist’s Wife protagonist also viewed her life negatively as she described her life as “dreary” and she was “simply dying of it.”

Contrast

Sunstroke‘s protagonist was distressed because he didn’t know what to do with his life after that short acquaintance with the woman he liked. The Chemist’s Wife‘s protagonist was uncertain at first what was bothering her but at the end of the story, it can be implied that she was depressed because of the nonchalant treatment of her husband to her. The man in Sunstroke got distressed because of someone he just met while the chemist’s wife was distressed because of someone she knows very well.

In Sunstroke, the man’s melancholy was detailed and elaborated. He repeatedly stated his misery now that he is alone. His perspective of his surroundings changed and it can be seen from the story. Meanwhile, in The Chemist’s Wife, it was just stated that the wife was unable to sleep, and was feeling bored and vexed, and was inclined to cry for some unknown reason.

The man in Sunstroke was overly attached to the woman he met while the wife in The Chemist’s Wife felt like she didn’t really like her husband.

The Sunstroke protagonist didn’t really know well the girl because he had just met her. He doesn’t even know her name. Meanwhile, Tchernomordik’s wife knows his husband very well as suggested in what she views as the reason why her husband was smiling in his sleep.

Themes

The theme of Sunstroke is that an excessive and sudden rush of emotion can make someone see the world or the environment he is in differently. This can be seen in how the man described the surroundings. At first they were positive but when he was alone, he was like irritated that other people are free of problems and he described the environment negatively.

The theme of The Chemist’s Wife is that sometimes a woman is just something for convenience, pleasure, or companion. Women are treated as something that can be used and throw away. They are not important to some men and their feelings and opinions are not considered. This was shown in the chemist’s indifference to the wife’s cries and the doctors’ actions.

Take It Positively

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Reflection

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunities in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Accidents. Wars. Disasters. All of these are tragic and dreadful, and brings down the person going through them. We get depressed and ask God why He let this happen to us. We usually just look at the negative side and never think of what good it could change in us.

Three years back, when I was just starting my second year in high school, I had one of the experiences I rather not want to be repeated. It wasn’t really that tragic but it was still grave for me. My dad slipped on the wet ground and he broke his right leg. I got kind of depressed because it was the first time that I witnessed my dad in a really great pain. He had to be in the hospital for a week for the operation and recovery. My mom had to accompany him so my sister and I were left in our house. For a night or two (I couldn’t remember exactly), we were kept company by our cousin and uncle but for the rest of the week, we were alone in our home. My dad couldn’t go to work for about two months because of his bad leg. During that period, the things and chores that usually my dad does were being done by me and my sister.

What I have experienced is not as grim as what Jonathan Iwegbu had undergone. I am lucky I didn’t have to go through a war. I am lucky I didn’t have to lose properties and loved ones. I am lucky I didn’t have to suffer the aftermath of a civil war.

Jonathan suffered heavily from the consequences of the war but he still has the optimism to thank God for what he has left and he believes that everything happens for a reason and that it is God’s plan.

If Jonathan can see the civil war as something positive, how much more can I treat my adverse experience? I learned to think that the accident was made to happen to make me much more responsible and caring.  Because of what happened to my dad, I realized that I have to take good care of what I have right now; they are precious and indeed priceless but also fragile. In a moment, they could all be wiped out from me. So while I still have the people I love, I should show them that I really love them.

There are two different ways a reader can interpret the old man’s actions in the story.

One. The man was trying to save the face of Francis Fordham. Elizabeth Fordham Roth may have been scolded or maltreated a few times by his father when she was young, which made her hate her own father, but in reality, the father may have been doing that for here daughter’s own good. Maybe he was just too overprotective of his child and may have deprived her of the social world outside. The man may have noticed these things when he was young and may have understood Francis Fordham’s actions. The young Elizabeth, however, may have not and carried her grudge on her father until her death. Being mad at her father, she may have made up things like her father battering her or maltreating her, and told almost everyone, including her children and grandchildren these lies. The man, having sympathy for Francis Fordham, may be trying to reconstruct the damaged image of Elizabeth’s father.

Another way and more likely than the first is that the old man may be trying to make Francis Fordham look like a respected person who never would lay a finger on Elizabeth Fordham Roth. Like a mortuary professional making a corpse look good, the man may be covering Francis Fordham’s ugly attitude by telling the granddaughter that her grandmother, due to old age, may have been delusional when she was telling her about her father maltreating her. If people do become delusional when getting old, then wouldn’t it be that the old man is also that? He then would be just a little out of his mind and is making up the story.

Reconstruction work, therefore, means rebuilding the broken dignity or image of someone in the former; the same term means differently in the latter, a cover-up of the true personality by a layer of lies.