Charles Perrault's Cinderella: Setting & Characters

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

Charles Perrault's 'Cinderella' is one of the most well-known versions of this classic story. In this lesson, we will spend some time learning about the setting and major characters in his version.

A Well-Known Story

You're probably familiar with the story of Cinderella in one form or another. Her struggles and eventual triumph have been told in many different cultures, languages, and mediums. With so many versions of the story floating around, it can be important to take time to learn more about them. For instance, one of the most familiar of these stories is Charles Perrault's version, simply titled ''Cinderella'' or ''The Little Glass Slipper.'' Let's learn more about this story by taking a closer look at the setting and characters.

Where It All Goes Down

First things first: where and when do the events of the story take place? Well, as simple as that question may be, in this case there isn't really a simple answer. Perrault never states an exact year or place, so we have to use what clues we have to infer what we can. We know that the story takes place during a time when ruffled gowns, petticoats, and corsets were staples in a fashionable woman's wardrobe. We're also talking about a time before cars and buses were around, since the main mode of transportation consists of a horse-drawn coach manned by a coachman and some footmen.

As for where the story takes place, it seems we can reasonably assume the story takes place in France. For one thing, Perrault himself was French. Regardless of his nationality or that he would have written the story in French, the story itself gives us a clue because the hairdresser is referred to using a French title: Mademoiselle de la Poche. With these clues, and the fact that much of the story's action either takes place in the family home or in the king's court, it wouldn't be out of the question to think Perrault's story takes place in France, sometime around the late 1600's - early 1700's when he wrote it.

Who Is Involved

Now that we've taken a closer look at what we know about the setting, we can turn our attention to the important characters. There are a number of characters who make brief appearances in the story, but for the most part, the story revolves around Cinderella and her stepsisters.

Cinderella

As the heroine, Cinderella is the most developed character in the story. We don't know much about her parents, though we can safely assume her mother died because her father is now remarried. We do know she takes after her mother more than her father, which is a pretty good thing since her mother's traits are responsible for Cinderella's ''unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper.'' On the other side, her father is a bit of a pushover - when things start getting bad with her stepmother, Cinderella doesn't complain to him because she knows he'll take his new wife's side.

Granted, it probably wouldn't be in Cinderella's nature to complain anyway. She's incredibly patient in regards to taking the mistreatment her stepmother and stepsisters dish out. Actually, the acceptance of her chores leads to her getting the name Cinderella: when she finishes her chores, she heads to the ''chimney corner'' where she sits among the ''cinders and ashes'' until she's needed again. This leads to her being called Cinderwench, which eventually transitions into Cinderella.

Cinderella's kindness knows no bounds. She shares the tasty treats the prince gives her at the ball with her two stepsisters. She also gives them good fashion advice. As if that's not enough, she also forgives all her stepsisters' bad behavior once she's married and shares her good fortune with them by getting them good husbands.

Her patience and kindness only add to her outward beauty, which is so captivating that she enchants everyone who sees her at the ball, including the prince and his father. Of course, we know her goodness at least in some part contributes to her fairy godmother's decision to help Cinderella out because her godmother says ''be but a good girl, and I will contrive that you shall go'' before using her magic to get Cinderella to the ball.

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