In “Cinderella, Not So Morally Superior,” author Elisabeth Pantaja takes the position that Cinderella is not superior to the step-sisters, as readers often think. Additionally, so takes the position that Cinderella is not motherless in the story.
As a child or an adult just watching Cinderella for entertainment, at first glance, without a thought, it does appear that poor, motherless Cinderella is taken advantage of by her stepmother, Lady Tremaine, and evil stepsisters, Drizella and Anastasia. Cinderella is orphaned as a young girl. Her mother dies when she is a baby. Her father remarries, trying to provide Cinderella with a mother to raise her. In doing so, she is provided with two older sisters as well. It appears that Cinderella has another family at last. Then her father passes away as well, and her step-mother changes. No longer is Cinderella’s doting father there to look after her and protect her. Instead, Cinderella becomes the household servant since her Lady Tremaine does not handle the finances well and the help must be let go. Step-mother and step-sister’s still live in luxury, only Cinderella’s life is changed as she undertakes the new role of servant.
The King and the Duke organize a ball at the palace for Prince Charming as they are distraught that he does not intend to get married. All eligible maidens are invited. When the invitations arrive at the house, Lady Tremaine and her daughters are excited. Cinderella points out that she, too, is eligible to go. Her step mother concedes, as long as her chores are done, then gives an impossible list to Cinderella to complete, including making something appropriate to wear. When Cinderella accomplishes everything on time, Lady Tremaine harshly critiques has dress, allows it to be trashed by her daughters, and they leave for the ball, leaving Cinderella behind, in tears.
Alas, Cinderella’s fairy godmother shows up, creates a beautiful gown for her to wear, provides her with a carriage, and a warning to be home by midnight. Cinderella attends the ball, and with no traditional Disney magic, Prince Charming falls in love with her and is confused when she runs off at midnight, leaving one glass slipper behind as she leaves in the night.
The next day, when the footman has to fit the slipper on all maidens, arrives at the house, Cinderella is locked away, and as her stepmother knows it is she the Prince has fallen in love with. She escapes, but Lady Tremaine trips the footman, causing the glass slipper to shatter. Cinderella is able to produce the slipper mate, demonstrating she is the one, and she and Prince Charming marry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinderella_(1950_film)).
Personal Response to the Presentation
In this story, as I was in the time in which it was set, the women’s status was as established as their husband’s was. A woman could not establish her status in society on her own. Both mothers, Cinderella’s and the step-sisters, wanted their daughters to marry well, and Prince Charming would be the epitome of a good marriage. Lady Tremaine tried to be successful through her daughter’s presentation to the Prince at the ball. Cinderella’s mother did so in another matter. The tree that grew on her grave housed two birds that pecked out the Drizella and Anastasia’s eyes when the footman arrived, enabling Cinderella to try on a glass slipper to prove she was the one the Prince fancied at the ball.
Lady Tremaine and Cinderella’s mothers were strong women willing to fight to help their daughters achieve a role of prominence in the society in which they lived. Although done in a way that is masked in symbolism, the women show creativity, cruelty, and resilience. They are willing to do what it takes to get the job done, through unscrupulous means and dirty tactics, making their daughters shine in the end.