The Subjectivity of Beauty and Its Perception in Cinderella; or The Glass Slipper
The definition of beauty is subjective because people have different perspectives as to what makes another person beautiful. Some define beauty based on an individual’s personality while others base it on physical characteristics. This is considerably displayed in the fairy tale “Cinderella,” as a poor young girl, Cinderella, magically transforms her appearance to a more gentle and pleasant one that better mirrors her personality. In the fairy tale “Cinderella; or, The Glass Slipper” by Charles Perrault, Cinderella develops from a young, single girl into a young, gorgeous princess. Although the explicit lesson of the story is supposed to be that inner beauty, being a kind and moral person, is more important than outer beauty, Cinderella’s physical transformation interferes with the transmission of this lesson. This interference of ideas helps to show that while inner beauty is important, physical beauty is equally important and when applied together, both can be an extremely powerful tool.
In “Cinderella; or The Glass Slipper,” a man finds a seemingly worthy wife that fills his void of being single. However, in wedding such a wife he gains her baggage; both she and her two daughters have arrogant and demanding personalities. The man also has his own daughter who was raised to be kind with a charming personality. The newly-wedded-stepmother could not bear the idea of her husband’s daughter’s positivity possibly overshadowing her own daughters. She felt as though the young girl’s charming personality would make others disregard her own children’s presence; she then forced the young girl to be the housekeeper while her daughters were clothed in and treated to luxurious items. She assumes her newfound role with composure despite her stepsisters giving her the new name, Cinderella. As much as the stepmother tests her patience, Cinderella refuses to advise her father of the wrongdoings of her stepmother, believing that it would only worsen her situation. In the story, the prince holds a ball and invites honorable individuals. The sisters, excluding Cinderella, receive an invite to the ball because they are regarded as having a higher status. As the sisters get ready, searching for the best gowns and accessories to make a grand appearance, Cinderella becomes depressed knowing that, unlike her sisters, she will be stuck at home while others enjoy the ball. On the day of the ball, after her stepsisters leave Cinderella cries until her godmother appears and advises her to stop crying. Her godmother then provides a series of requests in order for Cinderella to attend the ball; the only ultimatum being that she must leave the ball before midnight. After completing the tasks, Cinderella is ready to go to the ball and is clothed in riches, such as gold, silver and glass slippers. The first evening at the royal ball, no one recognizes Cinderella and is in shock by her beauty. She leaves before the clock strikes twelve, so she will not encounter any type of embarrassment. The next day, there was another ball where the godmother comes then Cinderella has a makeover in order to attend. Because Cinderella is much more focused on her interactions with the prince, she loses track of time and disregards her deal with her godmother to leave the ball before midnight. When the clock strikes twelve, she rushes out of the ball and in the midst of her race back home, she lost her glass slipper. All this while, the prince chases after her but is so distracted by the sight of the lost slipper that he loses sight of her. He picks up the slipper promising to marry the young woman who fits into the slipper perfectly. After a long search for the woman with the perfect shoe fit who also owns the other side of the slipper, the Prince finally finds the woman, Cinderella (Perrault 449-454).
In the beginning, Cinderella is described to be gentle and pleasant and seeks positivity in every situation she is in. On the contrary, her physical beauty was hidden behind her filth, so one would perceive her to be ugly. Based on how she represented herself, the stepmother took advantage and goes out of her way to make Cinderella’s life miserable by demanding the young girl to “do all the most demeaning tasks in the house,” such as “[scrubbing] the rooms of the mistress and her daughters” and “[sleeping] on a wretched straw mattress at the top of the house”; her appearance affected the way she was treated around her own home (450).
Based on the chores that Cinderella must do around the house, the stepmother treated her as if she is supposed to be the maid of the house; she is the perfect example of the roles the lower-class women engaged in. Not only does the stepmother have a powerful influence on all of the daughters, but she also has power over her husband, which is why Cinderella “endured everything with patience and did not dare to complain to her father, who would have only scolded her since he was totally under the control of his wife,” because it would not benefit anyone (450). The stepmother’s wickedness was used to have control over others but, in the end, the combination of Cinderella’s inner and physical beauty triumphed over her stepmother exertion of power. As a result, Cinderella’s beauty can be extremely powerful.
Later on, in the story, Cinderella becomes an outlet for her siblings as they were preparing for the royal ball. It is Cinderella’s choice to ruin the makeover as a means of revenge towards the sisters, instead she “dressed them to perfection” and helped with the success of the outfits (450). Although her siblings are well-off with professionals to style them for the night, they preferred Cinderella because “she was good-natured” (450). Beyond the looks her garments, Cinderella was a kind-hearted individual that sought the best in others. Her opinion is highly valued, no matter the situation because she will always be true to her word, or in other words, genuine. Even though she was not treated fairly by her stepmother and stepsisters, her genuine personality allowed her to help her siblings with grace.
Once the story switched gears, Cinderella becomes bold in her actions. She gains the confidence to attend the ball after her siblings departed from and her godmother arrived at Cinderella’s home. Cinderella goes on a mission godmother driven by her to improve her look. The mission includes: “going into the garden,” “[looking] into the mousetrap,” and going to a rattrap so the godmother would successfully use magic to accompany her to the ball in disguise (451). The items used were magically struck to enhance her image as a pleasant young woman and provide her with a grand entrance to the prince’s ball.
Power lies on the surface of beauty; with enough beauty comes more opportunities. Cinderella’s discovered beauty after her makeover brought her love, power, and outsiders admired her. Although the author deems beauty to be a treasure, the author communicates that beauty is much more than the clothes; it is kindness that brings out the beauty of women (453-454). The idea that inner beauty matters more than outer beauty is not portrayed in the tale because a drastic change in Cinderella’s physical appearance is what is allowed her to be perceived as beautiful. Moreover, the journey that Cinderella went through to discover her unknown beauty was much more tedious and rough than dealing with her wicked stepmother who viewed her as a peasant, rather than as an individual. Cinderella’s triumph proves that both forms of beauty are powerful when paired together thus proving that one needs both; without both working together, Cinderella may have still been a poor, young housemaid.
As a result of maltreatment in her own home by her stepsisters and stepmother, Cinderella uplifts herself with the assistance of those with power, such as the prince and her godmother. Without her godmother and the prince, Cinderella would still be attending to her stepmother, being a housemaid, and relying on her godmother to make situations better. Cinderella went on a physical journey as she went from being a maid in her home into a powerful and successful wife of a prince while maintaining her positive and understanding beauty within.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below