While Disney was not the first one to tell the story of Cinderella this version of events has, arguably, become a classic. For the duration of this paper it is the Disney version of the tale that we will be discussing in reference to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. When comparing the two works it is evident that Cinder and Cinderella are similar in many aspects of the fairy tale, however their respective main characters divert into different directions of the typical girl. The stereotypical girl (namely Cinderella) is not unlike the Anita Harris’ “can-do girl” in terms of appearance: “beautiful and fit” (Projanksy), she is abled, Caucasian and – in fairy tales – she is hold an impassive role, letting life happen around her and waiting for “prince charming” to save the day. Cinder, on the other hand, breaks these preset “norms” by her ethnicity – Asian, and by simply being a cyborg, in appearance she is the at-risk girl – she is differently abled AND a second rate citizen because of the mechanical aspects of her body.
In the stories Cinder/Cinderella are forced to work for their step mothers, without pay, in an almost slave-like fashion. However, in Disney’s Cinderella the young girl is forced to wait on the family hand and foot, taking over all “womanly duties” – i.e. cooking, and cleaning. Cinderella is impassive not showing a like or dislike for the work, simply doing as she is told. Cinder is imprisoned by her step mother in an entirely different way, in that she is free to do her job, outside of the home, completely unsupervised. She runs “the only full-service mechanic at New Beijing’s weekly market.” (location 72) with total control over the business, with the exception of where the money is going (directly to the step mother). In present day mechanics are typically middle-aged males – which Cinder definitely is not; she is a young female. The role of the mechanic is important in her society, as the use androids is so normalized. it is bizarre that she obtains the role – as seen in Prince Kai’s reaction when he sees her for the first time: “’you’re Linh Cinder?’” (location 122). Meyer uses the italics here to emphasize Prince Kai’s surprise, proving that she, a young girl, is not normally the best recommended mechanic around.
Women and girls are typically central to a family dynamic, Cinder and Cinderella are as well, however, they are central only through what they provide in their “jobs.” Both the girls are estranged from their step family and the rest of the world. Adri, Cinder’s step mother, is aware that Cinder has a friendship with Iko and familiar connections to Peony – had Cinderella’s stepmother been aware of the friendship with the mice they surely would have been “stamped out.” In this way Cinder is breaking another norm, she is not simply just the victim as Cinderella is. Cinder cares deeply for Iko and Peony respectively, she reassures Iko when they discover that Sacha (the baker) has the plague, telling her they are safe, and she is horrified and worried for Peony upon discovering the tell tale bruise of the plague. Ann M. Childs argues that friendships must be “scarified in order to reconcile dystopia’s hopelessness with the hopefulness of young adult fiction” (Childs), however Meyer moves against this through her use of Cinder. Cinder does not sacrifice her friendships but is rather sent away by her stepmother. She loses Peony (to the plague) and Iko (through her step mothers malice), but she does not sacrifice them to move forward in rebellious fashion.
While at first glance Cinder and Cinderella seem to fall into the “at-risk” and “can-do” categories, respectively, it is through their active thinking – or lack thereof – they move from one end of the spectrum to the other. Cinder moves from at-risk to can-do when she becomes “resilient and empowered” (Harris) discovering that she is immune to plague and has the opportunity to help find a cure and save her step sister, Peony. This is also evident through Cinders actions/thoughts about residing with her step family – she is determined to leave them, inquiring a “getaway” car from junkyard. Cinderella remains impassive in her story, waiting dutifully for the prince to save the day. Cinderella begins her tale as a can do girl, not only in looks as previously discussed, but in her life and familiar situation – it is implied in the movie that when her father was alive she lived a good and comfortable life. After the death of her father she becomes a flat character in her own story – when told to do something her reaction is to just do it, she doesn’t consider ever leaving, or attempting to. It is not until the fairy god mother appears and – quite literally – magics everything into place that Cinderella begins to break the rules; she is only comfortable doing this when the fear has been removed from her. (Though she still returns to the step mothers home and her regular life immediately there after.) Cinderella is at risk because she makes no moves to improve things for herself, where Cinder, now the can do girl, does. Active or impassive thoughts and actions create a divide between the types of girls Cinder and Cinderella are.
The main characters in most (Disney) fairy tales appear to be the typical girl in looks, however in their respective narratives they are impassive and flat characters, they do not have active roles. Meyer takes the familiar tale of Cinderella and manipulates it to show that these main characters don’t have to be bystanders in their own stories. She does this through subtleties such as Cinder’s job and relationships, and through larger aspects like her active thoughts and actions.
Childs, Ann M. M., “The Incompatibility of Female Friendships and Rebellion.” Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, edited by Sarah K. Day, Miranda A. Green-Barteet, Amy L. Montz, Ashgate, 2014.
Harris, Anita. “The ‘Can-Do’ Girl verus The ‘At-Risk’ Girl.” Future Girl.
Meyers, Marissa. Cinder. Kindle ed., A Feiwel and Friends book, 2012.
Projansky, Sarah. “Introduction.” Finding Alternative Girlhoods. New York University Press, 2014.
In what other ways does Meyer use Cinder and other characters to break away from the stereotypical Cinderella story? Does she conform to any of the stereotypes?
We briefly mention that Cinder is Asian not Caucasian like most fairy tale characters, however it appears that this fact is not as important as the fact that she is a cyborg. Would the novel/plot line have been as effective had it taken place in North America?