Colette Dowling's The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independency
In her book, The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independency, Ms. Colette Dowling states her belief in a condition which she names "the Cinderella complex", being an intricate system of beliefs put upon women which make them feel as if they must be submissive to the wills of others, seemingly less intelligent than they truly are. However, with a more detailed analysis of the tale of Cinderella, Dowling would have realized that this is not a completely accurate naming of her discovered complex. But in order to prove this, we ourselves must take a closer look at the tale of Cinderella.
In the classic version of Cinderella, that written by Charles Perrault, we are presented the image of a girl completely submissive to the will of her stepmother and of her sisters. Not quite flattering to the modern woman. However, let us examine the author and the circumstances surrounding his retelling of the story.
Charles Perrault was a French nobleman, whose project was to collect tales from all over the world and rewrite them in such a format as would make them suitable for his intended audience, namely the French court. In the world of royalty, it is the man who is truly important, the sole purpose of his wife being to bear him children and make him look good in public. Perrault's Cinderella is a perfect example of what, in the eye of his audience, would be considered the perfect wife. She was a hard worker, who never objected to anything that she was told. She was "sweetness itself", according to Perrault, a perfect girl without a trace of animosity in her being--as is shown in her final treatment of her stepmother and sisters. She would never be rude to anyone--a perfect girl for a man of noble blood. And she could cook, she could clean, she could do the laundry, and she could even separate lentils from ashes! How much better can you get?!
Necessarily, Charles Perrault's version is not as it was originally told him. This is proven from a certain element of Cinderella's character brought out only once in the story.
At the end of the story, on the night before the final ball, Cinderella asks her sister if she would be so kind as to let her borrow a dress of hers. Of course, her sister refuses. And then an element of the original tale breaks through.
"Cinderella was expecting this refusal and she was very glad when it came, for she would have been in an awkward position if her sister really had lent her her frock."
We see distinctly here that indeed Cinderella does have the womanly aspect of cunning and, more importantly, that she knows exactly when to use it.
We can prove that this cunning woman known heretofore only as "sweetness itself" is the true face of Cinderella, and the sweetness merely a facade, by exploring more deeply the tale of Cinderella in other cultures.
In the West African Cinderella, entitled "The Maiden, the Frog,...