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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.