Perrault’s version of Cinderella portrays the story of a girl who is entirely submissive to the will of her stepmother and her two stepsisters. The depiction of Cinderella by Perrault is that of the ideal perfect woman. Not only is she sweet, but is a “perfect girl without a trace of animosity in her being” (Perrault, 595). Despite being put through abuse by her family she treated them with kindness and suffered through her servitude patiently. However, all things concerned Cinderella can be viewed as a weak role model as far as impressionable young females are concerned. This is primarily because she elicits them to put faith in attributes such as passivity, attractiveness, and reliance as prerequisites for Cinderella’s ultimate transformation and fulfillment in life.
Perrault’s Cinderella can be seen as an icon of female passivity. Her complete acceptance of the unfair conditions she had to endure and lack of gathering support from her father demonstrates her passiveness. True that Cinderella to the eye of the general reader might come across as the ideal woman, however, the gender role stereotyping deep-rooted in this story seems old fashioned and outdated. Cinderella’s refusal to take a stand for herself and control her life by submissiveness to her families abuse and high reliance on the prince’s love towards the end to rescue her, gives girls today a weak model to look up to. It endorses in women their endurance of hardships and a lack of courage to stand up for themselves against unfair treatment. Placing so much faith in external forces to assign meaning and protection to their life and expecting to be rescued as a reward for extensive virtuous suffering is a weak pedestal for women to strive for.
Furthermore, Perrault places extensive emphasis on the value of beauty to be a critical asset for a woman, whose happiness is directly dependent on her ability to attract a man. Cinderella’s beauty is highlighted throughout the narrative, with her being’ fifty times as beautiful as her sisters’ all the way till showing how even the King could not keep his eyes off ‘beautiful and charming person’ he saw (Perrault, 597). This reinforced emphasis on Cinderella’s beauty leads young girls to assume that they need to be beautiful to be successful and happy. This moral value is highly misleading simply because of the assumption that being beautiful is mandatory for a girl to achieve her desire and dreams.
The notion of male dependency is also a main factor presented by Perrault as we see how Cinderella is saved from her life of servitude as the prince frees her lowly status and her evil stepmother and sisters. So Cinderella’s transformation is a direct result of the prince and fairy godmother’s assistance while it should have been a result of her own efforts deciding her future. Putting the goodness and virtuous nature of individuals on one side it is critical that equal faith is placed in transcending magnificently by beating the insurmountable obstacles one faces on their own. This is a superior lesson that impressionable minds hold to benefit from instead of heavy reliance on external forces to bring about happiness in one’s life; A fact that Perrault cynically hints towards in the conclusion of his story by hinting how even the possession of unique talents might fail to bring an individual success.
Perrault, Charles. Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: [Contes de ma mère lOye] (Paris: Chez Claude Barbin, 1697).