Charles Perrault's Cinderella: Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Crystal Hall

Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.

''Cinderella,'' a fairy tale derived from folk stories and recreated by Charles Perrault, is a classic, happily-ever-after story of a woebegone girl who is rescued from her misery by the most-perfect Prince Charming.

If the Shoe Fits

A damsel in distress being rescued by a Prince Charming is a common theme in literature, and Charles Perrault's ''Cinderella'' is an exemplar of these character archetypes. Based on classic folk tales and originally called ''Cendrillon, or The Glass Slipper,'' Perrault wrote his version of this timelessly classic tale in France in 1697.

On the receiving end of taunting from her stepsisters, Cinderella mourns her lack of an invitation to the ball; however, her fairy godmother appears, transforming Cinderella from a housekeeper into a beautiful princess, complete with glass slippers. In this version, a pumpkin is transformed into a coach and a rat is turned into a coachman -- unlike in later versions of the tale where the fairy godmother turns a dog into a coachman. Also, instead of the emblematic light blue gown, Cinderella wears a gold, silver, and jeweled dress.

Wish Granted

Having been warned that her coach will turn back into a pumpkin at midnight, Cinderella goes to the ball and dances with the prince, and the pair fall in love. She attends the ball again the next night and, when the clock strikes midnight, she races to her coach; in a panic, she leaves a shoe behind on the castle stairs.

The prince orders that the entire kingdom be searched for the foot that will fit the shoe, intending to marry its owner. Cinderella is presented to the royal representative, who slips the shoe onto her foot. It fits perfectly, and she and her prince are married. She forgives her two stepsisters and marries them off to lords. In Perrault's tale, there is a less description of Cinderella's wedding to the prince, unlike later adaptations.

Moment of Truth

Analysis

Magic

Charles Perrault utilizes magic within the story's plot in order to create extraordinary events from ordinary lives. A fairy godmother, a magic wand, and granted wishes are all elements of an enchanted tale ending with happiness for a character with a kind heart and a gentle spirit.

Characters

The primary conflict within the story exists between Cinderella and her stepfamily. They behave as if Cinderella is their household servant, treating her cruelly and forcing her to perform manual household labor.

Servant Cinderella

The characters in this fairy tale are opposites to the extreme, representing good and evil. Cinderella is humble, meek, kind, and obedient. Her stepmother and stepsisters are cruel, condescending, and deceitful. While other versions focus on the stepsisters' ugliness, Perrault's version of the story does not call attention to the physical appearances of the stepsisters.

Gender Roles

Gender roles are also somewhat assigned within the story, due to the fact that it is a female that does the housework, and the younger females in the home have a single goal in common: to marry a wealthy prince.

Cinderella's father is largely absent from the story, mentioned only as hen-pecked by his wife. During his assumed absence, the home is governed by a female.

Quotes

Cinderella's wicked stepmother was resentful of the fact that her own daughters were lacking in goodness when compared with Cinderella: ''She could not bear the good qualities of this pretty girl, and the less because they made her own daughters appear the more odious. She employed her in the meanest work of the house.''

Cinderella's stepsisters tease her because they are going to the ball, and she is not:

'' 'Cinderella, would you not like to go to the ball?'

'Alas!' said she, 'you only jeer me; it is not for such as I am to go to such a place.'

'You are quite right,' they replied. 'It would make the people laugh to see a Cinderwench at a ball.' ''

Cinderella's fairy godmother appears and asks what her trouble is: ''This godmother of hers, who was a fairy, said to her, 'You wish that you could go to the ball; is it not so?' ''

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