Snow White: Nothing More or Less than Beautiful
Both “Lessons from a Mirror” by Thylias Moss and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by Anne Sexton provide a unique dialogue with the Snow White masterplot. Both works demonstrate how feminine beauty ideals and assumed purity are inextricably linked to a woman's inherent worth. Sexton accomplishes this while still remaining fairly in line with the masterplot yet her overall tone suggests disapproval of these ideals making her piece read almost as a satire, something that uses humor as a way to criticize a topic. Moss' tone also reads as disapproving but provides more of a response to the masterplot rather than following it, creating a strong feeling of tension in the piece. These two works provide versions of the Snow White tale which manage to relate to the masterplot while also forming a critique of it.
The language throughout Sexton's “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” likens Snow White more to an object than to any sort of sentient being. Vivid imagery, or descriptive language, is used to present a delicate and pristine sort of beauty to the reader. Snow White is said to have “cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper . . . rolling her china-blue doll eyes”(Sexton 3). This manner of comparison suggests that Snow White is beautiful because of the items of value that her physical attributes resemble. Comparing her to a doll is especially offensive because it suggests that she is a pretty, yet lifeless. It may also suggest that her actions depend on the whim of others as a dolls movements are controlled by a person. This sort of objectification is a vein that runs through every version of the Snow White tale to a degree. Snow White's name in and of itself is inherently objectifying because she is given it based on her physical resemblance to pure, white snow. Although Sexton's language is more blatant and sarcastic in nature, her use of objectifying characterization is one of the ways in which she ties herself to the Snow White masterplot.
Physical beauty is valued above all else and can be seen as the only real defining characteristic that Snow White possesses. Creating a physically flawless yet mentally vacant protagonist is the foundation from which the events in a Snow White tale must build. Many of the constituent events that comprise the Snow White masterplot would not be plausible if Snow White were represented as an intelligent, well-rounded person rather than a beautiful yet hollow doll. Sexton addresses this notion by referring to Snow White as a “dumb bunny”(6) when she falls for the queen's disguise for a third time. This particular choice of words provides a brief yet succinct description of Sexton's thoughts on the Snow White character type. She is as cute, sweet, and innocent as a bunny but also lacks anything that may be construed as intelligence. She allows herself to be fooled three times by the same tactics with little question. Like a bunny walking into...