Bettelheim Is Wrong

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Bettelheim Is Wrong In his essay entitled “Cinderella: A Story of Sibling Rivalry and Oedipal Conflicts,” Bruno Bettelheim argues that the popularity of the Cinderella folktale, especially among children, stems from children’s subconscious insecurities and emotions about real-life sibling rivalries. According to Bettelheim, the aspect of a “degraded heroine winning out over her siblings her abused her” appeals to children’s “agonies and hopes” in the face their own sibling and familial rivalries (Bettelheim). While his reasoning is partially correct, the core conflict in Cinderella is not sibling-based. It is much broader, and much more heroic than a simple sibling rivalry in which Cinderella prevails. Cinderella, in any variation of the folktale, is the story of an underdog, mistreated by everyone close to her but tolerant and patient in the face of hatred. The story emphasizes that the universe will reward kindness, punish the greedy and cold-hearted, and illustrates that karma does not discriminate based on status. When comparing two versions of the story, Charles Perrault’s “Cinderella,” which bears more similarity to Walt Disney’s film adaptation, and the Grimm Brothers’ “Ashputtle,” a darker and grittier variation, there is a notable difference in Cinderella’s relationship with her step-sisters. In Perrault’s version, Cinderella takes her abuse in stride. She does not hold a grudge against her wicked step-sisters, even going as far as to sit next to them at the ball, “treating them with great courtesy [and] offering them oranges and lemons which the prince had given her” (Perrault 551). In the Grimm version, Cinderella spends the entire evening dancing with the prince, never leaving his side for a moment. The Grimm version creates a more indirect relationship with the stepsisters, and portrays the key bully as the stepmother.
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