Telling the Humble Truth: The Subversion of Female Rivalry in A Feminist Rewriting of Cinderella
Leeuwen, A.M. van
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There is a long history of feminist authors rewriting stories. The goals of these rewritings can vary, but they are often concerned with bringing the female perspective into focus where it has been left out. All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller (2018) is one such rewriting; it tells the story of Cinderella from her stepmother’s perspective; what she calls the “humble truth” (Teller 2018, 2). In her rewriting, Teller subverts the rivalry narrative present in older versions of the fairy tale. Both the version of Cinderella by the brothers Grimm and the one by Charles Perrault depict the stepmother as an evil, jealous, proud villain without motivations beyond her jealousy of Cinderella, and Cinderella’s stepsisters as mean, self-obsessed creatures that do everything in their power to torment their stepsister. In All The Ever Afters, however, these characters are provided with humanity and motivations, and their relationship towards the Cinderella character is made more complex. Instead of giving the stepfamily all the power, the Cinderella character is the one with the higher status, which allows her agency. Whereas the fairy tales clearly draw a line between the good and the evil characters, All The Ever Afters blurs this line by showing the differences in personality between the characters without condemning one and praising the other. The first-person narrative perspective of the stepmother allows the reader to see her as a human being, and understand her actions. Through the changes Teller made from the fairy tales, the rivalry between Cinderella and her stepfamily is subverted; showing that while there are difficulties for a stepmother and her stepdaughter to have a good relationship, they can still love and support each other. By subverting the rivalry, this story does what Adrienne Rich (1972) states rewritings should do: challenge the power of traditional narratives, in this case about relationships between women.