Anne Sexton's Cinderella Story

Categories: Anne Sexton

We have all read a fairytale at least once in our lives and the ending is always the same. There is always something bad that happens but, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after. In Anne Sexton’s poem “Cinderella” there is a twist, she adds her own tale and shakes up the original fairytale.

Anne Sexton starts the poem by talking about the original fairy tales. After every fairy tale, she ends it by saying “that story” getting the readers to think of the original Cinderella fairy tale.

The use of Sexton’s mocking tone is what signals what is to come in the poem. By stating “that story” she is also trying to get her point across that every fairy tale is the same. It always goes something like this: Poor girl meets the prince and they end up living happily ever after. By adding her own narrative, she is illustrating a more realistic fairytale to the readers.

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To change the reader's view on the classical fairy tale she also uses irony throughout her sarcasm as well. In the poem she describes Cinderella quite differently, “Cinderella was her maid. She slept on the sooty hearth each night and walked around looking like Al Jolson” (cite). Al Jolson was a white man who imitated a black man. However, dressing up as a black man was his choice, and being a maid dressed up in filth was not Cinderella’s choice. Another example of ironic imagery in Sexton’s poem is from the line “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.

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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” (cite). Sexton is trying to show that life never goes away like a fairy tale. We must fight for everything that we want in our hands. We don’t have fairy godmothers to grant us all our wishes. With her use of sarcasm Sexton describes to the reader how far the stepsister had to go to achieve her happily ever after ending.

The reader's expectations may change through the use of sarcasm after reading this poem. From the lines, “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” (cite). Sexton is changing her fairytale to a myth by making Cinderella and the Prince just portraits on the wall. Again, by her use of sarcasm, Sexton is representing to the readers how the fairytale ending is not reality. Just because Cinderella and the Prince get married does not mean they will live happily ever after. Getting married never turns out like a fairytale. Through Sexton’s poem, the reader receives the message of the happily ever after concept, for we begin to realize that life is never that easy.

Sexton uses sarcasm, anecdotes, and iconic imagery to foreshadow the ending of the poem. Using iconic imagery changes the reader's view on the classic fairy tale ending. Through her own remake of “Cinderella”, Sexton successfully proves to the readers that fairy tales do not exist. The message readers get from this poem is to have realistic dreams and do not just sit at home and wait for prince charming to show up. You have to work for everything you get in life.

Updated: Apr 19, 2023
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Anne Sexton's Cinderella Story. (2020, Nov 24). Retrieved from

Anne Sexton's Cinderella Story essay
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