Encouragement of Gender Roles Through Fairy Tales
Female characters in many fairy tales are the perfect epitome of women following traditional female roles and possessing qualities of worthiness. I will illustrate how fairy tales inscribe gender roles upon females based on Karen Rowe’s argument “[t]hese tales which glorify passivity, dependency, and self sacrifice as a heroine’s cardinal virtues suggests that culture’s very survival depends upon a woman’s acceptance of roles which relegate her to motherhood and domesticity.” (Karen Rowe cited in Hallett and Karasek 348) I will discuss and analyse this through four fairy tales, Charles Perrault’s “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood” and “Cinderella” as well as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “Snow White”, and “Rapunzel”.
The female protagonists of fairy tales possess qualities in which women are seen and accepted. The
main trait of a virtuous woman is that of beauty. Never is the protagonist ugly, or have qualities less than
perfect in their looks. She is either the most beautiful, angel like or fairest of them all. As Marcia K.
Leiberman states, “ the prettiest is invariably singled out and designated for reward.”
The witch locked Rupunzel up in a tower. Despite this "beauty"tm she still leads a time in her life of hardship, but is rewarded in the end with a handsome prince. The first thing that gets the reader"tms attention is of the main character"tms unforgettable beauty. Once she woke she continued to be dependent and victimized in the second part of the story. Likewise, Rupunzel "grew to be the loveliest child under the sun. Snow White loved her prince as soon as she woke and a wedding was arranged. Sleeping Beauty first relied on the cook to save her from the Ogress"tms order and again on the King to save her and her children from the Ogress"tms final attempt to kill them. " (Leiberman cited in CCM package 192) In the next part of the tale the Ogress orders the cook to kill and serve Sleeping Beauty and her children for dinner. After leaving her supper at the ball she has nothing more to do but stay at home and wait. Cinderella endured her plight of being subservient to her wicked stepmother and sisters, yet remained passive. " (Perrault cited in H K 38) Her show of victimization and sadness brought on her fairy Godmother, to guide her, displaying Cinderella"tms helplessness. As the witch states, "I thought I had shut you away from the world". " (Grimms cited in H K 61) When the witch realized Rapunzel, had deceived her, she cut off her beautiful hair and sent her away to a far off place where Rapunzel lived in misery and want. Not only are they dependent, they are victimized until a prince comes to save them.