Anne Sexton's "Cinderella"

Essay by trait47College, UndergraduateA, October 2004

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"Cinderella" Analysis

Through literary devices such as simile, repetition and symbolism, Anne Sexton delivers the message that there is no way to live "happily ever after." Using four short stories as a lead in, Sexton makes powerful arguments about society by creating the symbol of the dove and alluding to the story of Cinderella. For Sexton there is no Cinderella, there is no prince charming, and there is no happy ending. However, through "Cinderella," she argues that the "happy ever after" ending remains an illusion society chases.

Sexton initially presents examples of success stories in which people, with lives of hardship, receive everlasting happiness due to superficial commodities. Sexton creates emphasis for the multiple stories using sentence fragments such as "from toilets to riches," (4) and repetition of "that story" to create colloquial tone. Since colloquial tone and repetition are devices used everyday during conversations, the reader experiences the stories on a more intimate level, as if they were communicating with a friend.

Sexton's first story describes a "plumber with the twelve children" (2) who transforms his life from tragedy to triumph from winning the "Irish Sweepstakes" (3). Sexton uses the stories to point out a reoccurring theme: a person cannot become instantaneously happy despite their good fortune, because real life is filled with tribulation. Similar stories of disheartened souls who change their lives from "rags to riches" are used as a lead in to the Sextons main allusion, "Cinderella." Sexton leads into "Cinderella" by contrasting the supposed success stories to the tale of a young woman who searches for a similar fate, only to find a modicum of contentment after an ordeal.

Cinderella, the main character in the poem, is portrayed as being unfortunate, mistreated, and discouraged. Sexton creates understanding for Cinderella using similes. In the first stanza, Cinderella's...