Charles Perrault's "Cinderella" and Wilhelm and Jacob Grimms' "Aschenputtel" both feature a mistreated, yet kind heroine who, despite overwhelming obstacles, attends a ball and marries a prince. However, the similarities between these two versions of the fairy tale end here. While Perrault's version emphasizes the moral and materialistic concerns of his middle-class audience, Grimms' focus is on the harsh realities of life associated with the peasant culture.
Perrault immediately connects with the materialistic values of his middle-class audience as he describes in detail the pampered lifestyle of Cinderella's step-sisters who "lay in rooms with inlaid floors upon beds of the newest fashion" (Classics, 17). Once invited to the ball, the step-sisters contemplate what they will wear. One decides on her "red velvet suit with French trimmings", while the other chooses to accentuate her look with a "diamond stomacher" (Classics, 18). While Perrault describes in detail the pampered lifestyle of this bourgeoisie family, he says much less about the appearance of the misfortunate Cinderella.
While Cinderella's clothing is of little interest to Perrault's audience, her "rare goodness and sweetness of temper" (Classics, 17) are esteemed values desired by all the middle-class. When called upon to arrange the hair of her unkind step-sisters for the ball, we are told that "anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their hair awry, but she was good-natured, and arranged it perfectly well" (Classics, 18). After arriving at the ball with the help of a fairy godmother, and winning the affection of the desirable prince, Cinderella "sat down with her sisters showing them a thousand civilities"(Classics, 20). Her rare goodness allows for a "happily-ever-after" ending when, after Cinderella marries the prince, she forgives her step-sisters (despite the evil they brought upon her), and invites them to live with her at the palace.
Perrault's version is represented in the Walt Disney tale most familiar to us. It evokes warm feelings as it takes the listener back to childhood days. Cinderella was a beautiful, well-mannered lady of "rare goodness" after which all middle-class girls could model themselves.