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Damsels in Address

It is clearly evident that many fairy tales of childhood tend to shape the reader. Certain moral codes and ideals are tightly woven into the text of many fairy tales, promoting or denoting a characters actions. In the Grimms fairy tales Cinderella, Brier Rose, and Rapunzel, the heroines of these tales exhibit strong behavioral codes, thus providing opportunity for the young female reader to relate to the damsel, or to model herself to behave in a similar fashion.

In accordance with Marcia R. Liebermans essay, ” Some Day My Prince Will Come: Female Acculturation Through the Fairy Tale,” I agree with the assertion that positive traits in fairy tale indicate reward, while the negative characteristics bring misfortune. A heroine in a fairy tale is to be seen as a mentor, a model to easily portray what is right, and what is inherently wrong. For instance, a passive heroine proves to bring eventual reward through pain and suffering, while a female who is assertive, either mentally or physically, is shunned.

Suggestions integrated throughout the text of the three tales provide strong evidence as to the desired morals and values of the society in which the tales were written. Through the examination of tales, their inherent messages surface. Childrens perceptions of fairytales can go a long way towards shaping social interactions among said children. Passivity is a major player in the personalities of Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Rapunzel relies completely on a determined prince to escape her imprisonment; Cinderella uses a fairy godmother to help her cause and Sleeping Beauty waits until Prince Charming wakes her.

Children could see these characterizations of women and begin to intertwine them with their own budding personalities. Boys begin to see women as weak and Girls may interpret these behavior traits as indicative of their being the lesser part of relationships with men. Sexual roles, although not overtly discussed within the pages of fairytales, becomes the focus for these young people. Marcia Lieberman reiterates the idea of inherent roles stating, “a picture of sexual roles, behavior psychology, and a way of predicting outcome or fate according to sex”(Lieberman, 384).

As they grow older, the children may begin to fall into the roles they discovered in the fairytales; boys begin to act out the hero role and girls become passive, receptive to the males ideas before their own. Throughout Cinderella, the jealous sisters are constantly oppressing the heroine of the tale. The sisters, who enslave Cinderella to complete chores around the palace, portray strong, ill natured, and above all, jealous characters. In contrast, Cinderella represents a relatively passive, young, and beautiful woman.

However, in contrast with Lieberman (389), Cinderella is not passive in completing her tasks about the house. Stating, “the system for rewards in fairy tales [] equates these three factors: being beautiful, being chosen, and getting rich,” Lieberman acknowledges the relationship between beauty and eventual success (386). Beauty, however, hides within Cinderellas actions. The words, “After leaving her slipper at the ball she has nothing more to do but stay home and wait,” expressions of description, Lieberman suggests that Cinderella exhibits at the core of her emotions, meekness (389).

Cinderellas submissiveness is rewarded with the introduction of the prince and her eventual happily ever after status. Rewards only pertain to those who have struggled, and therefore prove worthy. In Brier Rose, the heroine of the tale suffers through a great sleep to be eventually rejuvenated and rewarded for her passivity by the prince. Upon her birth, the heroine receives four gifts from fairies: virtue, beauty, wealth, and the curse of a seemingly endless sleep. Three of the four gifts bring lifelong success and happiness, while the latter handicaps her maturation process.

Proclaiming, “the prettiest is invariably singled out and designated for reward,” Lieberman identifies the tendency for fairy tales to equate beauty with success (384). Once again, the beauty of the heroine arrives as a result of her state of passivity, her intense sleep. The statement, ” she does not have to show pluck, resourcefulness, or wit; she is chosen because she is beautiful,” Lieberman explains the heroines ability to attract the eye of others (386). For it is merely the heroines immense beauty that persuades the prince to ride through the forest of thorns in order to reach the heroine and to rejuvenate her from her sleep.

Once again, as a direct result of her beauty, the heroine is rewarded for her beauty and all of the obstacles it brings. Throughout the tale Rapunzel, the heroine is portrayed as the classic fairy tale character, a damsel in distress. In this case, Rapunzel depends upon others to bring her happiness and in that, freedom. Awaiting the assistance of others, Rapunzel helplessly serves to further institute the notion that success only comes with being passive, specifically, being imprisoned by a cruel witch.

Revealing, “so many heroines [] are locked up in towers, imprisoned by giants, or otherwise enslaved,” Lieberman asserts the prominence of an imprisoned maiden in fairy tales (389). As previously stated, Rapunzel depends on her rescuer in order to escape the tower and the wrath of the witch keeping her in custody. Declaring, “The sexes of the rescuer and the person in danger are almost as constantly predictable; men come along to rescue woman who are in danger of death,” Lieberman concludes that in most cases, the damsel in distress is in fact distressed as a result of her imprisonment (391).

Whether mentally or physically imprisoned, the heroine of Rapunzel strongly relies on others, specifically and initially; she relies on a handsome prince driven by beauty. In fairy tales marriage is not without its great rewards. Proclaiming, “good, poor and pretty girls always win rich and handsome princes,” Lieberman presents marriage as a reward (386). This not without its drawbacks in the development of young childrens perceptions of marriage; Lieberman points out that “Since girls are chosen for their beauty, it is easy for a child to infer that beauty leads to wealth” (386).

Children see the opportunity to profit and run with the concept that the only way to be happy is to live a life that “equates these three factors: being beautiful, being chosen, and getting rich”(Lieberman, 387). Woe to the little girl raised on stories of women only able to marry or be loved if they are pretty. The girls can develop a trait of caring much more for their appearance and if ever they are spurned from marriage it may not be taken on its merits, instead seen as a sign that the girl is ugly, not chosen, not rich and consequently not happy.

Boys also see this and become obsessed with money; not willing to conclude the accumulation of wealth is so they can get a pretty girl. Without a doubt children can internalize many of the actions, roles, behaviors and psychology presented to them in fairy tales. Passive heroines are beautiful. In return for such beauty, the maiden is chosen, married, and loved by the hero. This process leads not only to beauty by means of passivity, but also to security and happiness. Assertion equates not only with beauty, but ugliness and misfortune as well.

Boys in turn develop a sense of responsibility and see themselves in the dominant role. In other words, they must save the day by getting the girl and then of course spreading wealth. For the young girls of the fairy tale audience to acknowledge that they must act out roles similar to the behavior of the heroines in the three tales under examination, thus guaranteeing eternal wealth and happiness. Boys will see the same roles played out and revert to the breadwinning hero role. Lessons portrayed throughout the story are epitomized by Marcia Lieberman to support the notion of love, success, and failure.

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