The Lady’s Maid and Cinderella: Two Similar Storylines
Children’s stories are often simple, with loveable characters and a feel-good ending. However, these simple plots sometimes have an underlying meaning that may be the basis for adult stories with social, intellectual, or emotional themes. For example, The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, is not only about a girl who is looking for the way home who meets some charming friends along the way. It was written as Populist propaganda for the entire Populist movement of the early 1900’s! The children’s tale of Cinderella can be interpreted in much the same way. It portrays a young orphaned girl named Cinderella who is enslaved by her stepmother. She works diligently throughout her life, searching for love, comfort, and a home. The myth in Cinderella is very strong. The presence of a Fairy Godmother creates a supernatural element in the story. Through the mythical godmother, Cinderella eventually obtains happiness by marrying Prince Charming. In “The Lady’s Maid,” by Katherine Mansfield, the narrator and maid is named Ellen. (Name similarity?) She, much like Cinderella, is loyal and quiet in performing her daily duties. Ellen is also searching for something to complete her life. But several incidents in Ellen’s life contribute to her un-Cinderella-like ending, including the fact that she does not have a mythical figure to help her out. These scenes, which are shown through Ellen’s responses to interactions with characters around her, prove Ellen to be a very complex character. Both Ellen and Cinderella experience sadness from childhood experiences and devotion to the ladies that they serve, but whereas Cinderella overcomes her problems in the end and finds happiness, Ellen carries her emotions so deeply that she cannot break free from her enslaved life.
When comparing Cinderella and Ellen, a their childhoods are obviously similar in many respects. Both the girls lack a constant loving home and a strong mother figure. Losing a parent at a young age is distressing to Cinderella in much the same way as it is for Ellen. Because the girls were never close with their parents because of death, they never developed the ties of loving mother-daughter relationships. Cinderella worked for her stepmother at a very young age, and after Ellen lived with her grandfather and an aunt, she was sent to work as a maid at age thirteen. The shuffling of parental figures for both Cinderella and Ellen causes them intense emotional trauma and likely triggers feelings of guilt for the loss of their parents. Cinderella and Ellen spend their days devoting much time and attention to those people in their lives who do give them attention. Because they never feel the true love that a parent can give, they mistake the orders from the old ladies as parental love. The maternal instincts that these girls both feel are similar, because they are struggling with the lack of parental influence and consequently cope by devoting their energy to those who give them any attention at all. And because they end up devoting much of their lives to those people who give them negative attention, neither Cinderella nor Ellen have anyone who truly care for them. As Cinderella and Ellen were growing up, they had no one that loved them the way a parent can love.
Cinderella and Ellen had unfulfilling childhoods that later caused them to attach later in life to anyone who should care for them. Because of their dependence to these people, the girls are both easily manipulated. Cinderella does all her chores for her stepmother and constantly cooks and cleans for the family. She feels that it is her duty to serve the family for allowing her to live with them. Cinderella is very dependent on the malicious, unloving family because she has no one else who cares about her. The stepmother and stepsisters are very cruel to Cinderella, and she does not like the way she is treated, yet she still does her