We’ve always read or been read fairy tales once in our lives, and how do they always end? Yes, happily ever after. In Anne Sexton’s “Cinderella”, she shakes up the traditional fairy tale, by adding her own tale. She uses sarcasm to finish the tale, causing the reader’s expectation of a happy ending and a traditional fairy tale to disappear. In doing so, she depicts the difference between the fairy tale and reality world.
With Sexton’s harsh words of reality, she breaks the dreams of the readers seeking a traditional fairy tale. The use of Sexton’s sarcastic tone foreshadows what is to come in the poem. The line “That story” (Line 5), which is repeated numerous times throughout the poem, makes the readers think of the original Cinderella fairytale. Perhaps along with this, by stating “That story” throughout the poem, she is trying to remind us how every fairy tale is the same. It always goes something like this: poor girl meets prince…and POOF! They live happily ever after! Now, when is life ever that easy? By adding her own anecdote, Sexton is depicting to the readers a more realistic fairy tale.
Sexton uses irony through her sarcasm as well. Perhaps, it changes the reader’s views on the classical fairy tale. Cinderella is described as, “Cinderella was their maid. / She slept on the sooty hearth each night / and walked around looking like Al Jolson” (Line 30-32). Al Jolson who was a white man, who impersonated a black man, is compared to Cinderella. However, dressing up as a black man was Jolson’s choice, and being their maid dressed in grime was not Cinderella’s.
Another example of ironic imagery in Sexton’s poem is actual my favorite lines in the poem. “The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on / but her big toe got in the way so she simply / sliced it off and put on the slipper. / The prince rode away with her until the white dove / told him to look at the blood pouring forth. / That is the way with amputations. / They don’t just heal up like a wish” (Lines 81-86). Perhaps Sexton is trying to show the readers how life never goes like a fairy tale. We do not get a fairy godmother to grant us our one simple wish. We must fight for everything that we want to have in our hands. With the use of her sarcasm, Sexton, depicts to the reader how far the stepsister went to achieve her happily ever after ending.
After reading this poem, the reader’s expectations may change through Sexton’s use of sarcasm. “Cinderella and the prince / lived, they say, happily ever after, / like two dolls in a museum case / never bothered by diapers or dust, / never arguing over the timing of an egg” (Line 100-104), from these lines, Sexton is in fact changing her fairy tale into a myth, making Cinderella and the prince just a portraits hung on the wall. By her use of sarcasm, Sexton is depicting for the readers how the fairy tale ending is in fact not reality. Just because Cinderella marries the prince does not necessary mean that they will live happily ever. If a person runs off and gets married, it never turns out quite like a fairy tale. Through Sexton’s poem, the reader can receive the message of the happily ever concept, for we begin to realize that life is just never that easy and never runs a long, smooth road.
Sexton uses sarcasm as well as her own anecdotes to foreshadow the ending of the poem. On top of this, she always uses ironic imagery and also changes the reader’s view on the classic fairy tale ending. Through her own remake of “Cinderella”, Sexton successfully proves to us that fairy tales do not exist in reality. Sexton is sending out the message to have realistic dreams and not sit at home just waiting for a prince charming to pull up in the pumpkin carriage.
Courtney from Study Moose
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