Most often, the Fairy tales contribute to the cultural stability in the society by creating and implementing certain perceptions and ideas regarding the ideal behavior specified for women. In most of the fairy tales the women possess certain virtues which include the core notions of passivity, dependency, and self-sacrifice for the well-being of the males. It can be stated the portrayed role of women is supposed to fulfill the needs of the male figures in the society. It is a regrettable fact to note that women characters from fairy tales always depend on the males for seeking any material possession in their lives. On the other hand, the male figure is deliberately portrayed to be perceived as a superior being who is responsible for making decisions in the family while the woman of the household is generally expected to submit to her husband’s command. This essay tends to analyze the famous tale of ‘The little mermaid’ for ascertaining the above-discussed practice of deliberate gender discrimination done in the fairy tales for depicting the dependent and submissive nature of females with respect to the male figures of the society.
Since my childhood days, I have loved the story of ‘The Little Mermaid’ in the fairy tales genre. As per the story, when the little mermaid was fifteen years of age, she was allowed to swim across the sea and visit the land to observe what goes on in that world (Andersen 4). During her exploration of the land, the little mermaid met a prince and fell in love with him. Unfortunately, all the decisions related to the future of the mermaid depended on her father’s will and she was not able to persuade him for being in a relationship with a human. This aspect of the story highlights the denial of independent decision-making ability to even a (female) mermaid as she was bound to obey the instructions of her father (male) regarding all the decisions related to her life. The plot uses the feelings of the female protagonist for a male character (human prince) in order to highlight her dependence on another male character (her father) for deciding the fate of her life and future of her continuation in the marine life. The role of men is dominant on both the sides of the equation for deciding the future of the female in this tale.
However, breaking the barriers of patriarchal dominance, the little mermaid sacrificed her marine life to pursue the love of her life by using a sea witch for converting her into a human and went for the prince to seek his love. However, the prince fell in love with other women and abandoned all the emotions related to her love. The mermaid sacrificed all of her possessions to seek his love but she lost him against the charms of the other women and was left with grief and guilt. Quite tragically, the mermaid was propelled by her sisters to kill the prince so that she could grab a chance of being a mermaid once again. However, she was so possessed with the guilt conscience that she ended up committing a suicide herself. Again, instead of seeking the revenge from a male who betrayed her trust and true devotion, the female protagonist chose to end her life and ultimately ended up forgiving him. This part of the plot can be deciphered as a strategic propaganda to explain the relative importance of males against females in terms of life and social value for being forgiven for their sins. Thus, the tale of ‘The Little Mermaid’ is another example of how the women were supposed to sacrifice their own lives and desires in order to keep up with the desires and selfish whims of the male members of the society. It can be deduced that despite all the sacrifices the women undergo, men are only concerned with accomplishing their motives and satisfying their own whims.
This fairy tale has clear implications over how the female character (The little mermaid) tried to overcome the issues of gender oppression in her life but later it all proved futile because she abandoned the dominance of her father to seek the whims of another male. The overall message which is clear in the tale is that she suffered a lot because she went against the wish of her father and the society to which she originally belonged. The little mermaid’s fairy tale also illustrates the presence of gender biased society and presence of gender imbalances in powerful positions of the society. This is quite easily evident from the tale that whether be land or water, males are always in charge and their decisions are not at all influenced by the plight and vagaries of the involved women (Burnett, "Is Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ A Feminist Film or Not?").
It can be concluded that the little mermaid, as the protagonist, tried to resist the patriarchal values by proving that she was always different from other women in her society. Being a protagonist, she saved the prince twice in the fairy tale and this was an illustration of her special traits and virtues. She also broke the conventional pattern of men seeking the love of women and going beyond the boundaries to fight for their love. The little mermaid acted as a hero instead by fighting with her own world and her existence to gain the love of the man. Like the conventional male protagonist, she went beyond limits to fight for her love and fought till the end for gaining the love of her life. She opposed the idea of subscribing to the notion that women were weak characters and made decisions that brought major changes in her life, however, the story also ends a strong signal for those females who don’t comply with the male dominance and tend to break the dogmas of the male society end up very tragically (Burnett, "Is Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ A Feminist Film or Not?"). Still, the story might inspire young girls always to remain strong, independent and always fight for what they believe in life
Andersen, Hans Christian. The little mermaid. Dramatic Publishing, 1994.
Burnett, Zaron."Is Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ A Feminist Film, Or Not?" 2013. Web. April, 22. 2016.