In watching Cinderella again for the first time in years, doing so has allowed me to study the character of Cinderella, and I have gained a new perspective on her and even a respect for who she is.
I have seen or heard people say that, because of her kind and gentle nature, Cinderella is passive and submissive to the Tremaines and takes orders from them with a smile or cheery attitude. Not to mention they think she should do something more to change her situation rather than just dream. However, I think such things are big misinterpretations of Cinderella’s behavior and situation.
It’s true that Cinderella is a positive person who is kind to just about everyone, including her stepfamily. A major example of this is when she delivers them their breakfasts: we see that while Cinderella is calm, quiet, and polite, her stepfamily is bossy, loud, and rude. She says “Good morning” to each of them and calmly says yes to all of the things they demand her to do. Of course, the Tremaines do not reciprocate her emotions and clearly don’t deserve such treatment from her. Yet why does Cinderella still behave this way towards them? Because by remaining a kind, gentle, caring woman, she wants to and has remained true to herself, despite all that she has suffered. She also refuses to let their mistreatment give her a pessimistic outlook on life.
The Tremaines hate Cinderella and are jealous of her purely because she is beautiful and kind. Her good looks and kind nature make them look inferior in comparison, which they cannot stand, so they want to make her inferior to them instead. The Tremaines want to break Cinderella’s spirits. They don’t want her to dream, they don’t want her to be happy, nor do they want her to have confidence or faith in herself; basically they want to turn her into a miserable, unattractive person. And Cinderella knows all of this. But if she were to give into her anger and sadness, she’d be stooping to the Tremaines’ level and be acting just like them (which is just what she doesn’t want to do, since the way they behave is not right).
After all that has happened to her, Cinderella remains superior to her stepfamily because she is still kind and her beauty shines even through her servant attire. She has large amounts of goodness within her heart that her stepfamily does not and will never have. At the same time, she knows that her behavior will never cause the Tremaines’ to change their behaviors (don’t count the sequels for the moment). But in all, Cinderella not changing her behavior is her way of sending an indirect message to the Tremaines that she has not given up and refuses to let them destroy her dignity and who she is entirely. Because she won’t change, this annoys and angers the Tremaines, especially Lady Tremaine.
Also, consider Cinderella’s overall situation: she is outnumbered and overpowered by the Tremaines. She virtually cannot stand up for herself, and when she tries to, she is silenced, ignored, or punished. If she tried to fight or talked back to them, they would punish her by taking away what little possessions she has left, give her more work, or worse, kick her out entirely. Even though she has been turned into a servant, Cinderella still has a home, clothes, and food. She really cannot afford to lose what little she has left, and she has so little because the Tremaines, especially the girls, have taken everything from her, from her fancy clothes to probably even her own room.
And contrary to what some people might think, Cinderella is definitely miserable and resents her situation. She also doesn’t take every order with a smile: when Lady Tremaine tells her to clean the tapestries and draperies, Cinderella frowns and tries to argue that she already did them. But Lady Tremaine tells her to do them again, and Cinderella realizes her situation is futile. Even when the Tremaines aren’t around (thus she can’t get in trouble with them), Cinderella does complain a little, such as when she is about to work on her dress, and they call her, to which she says, “Oh, now what do they want?”
But again, despite the abuse she endures with each encounter every day, Cinderella refuses to give up and let them destroy her. For someone who has been humiliated and abused for much of her life, Cinderella has a great deal of diligence and inner strength by not letting her situation affect her world view. In the end, her greatest reward for putting up with it and working so hard as a servant was marrying the prince and escaping her stepfamily forever.
Remember the scene in Cinderella in which Anastasia blames Cinderella of putting Gus under her teacup and then Cinderella gets punished for it with extra chores from Lady Tremaine?
Because of the kind of person they know she is, especially since she doesn’t behave like them at all, I really do believe that the Tremaines know that Cinderella wouldn’t pull pranks on them, no matter how mean they are to her and how much they deserve a taste of their own medicine, because she has already proven
to be strong by refusing to let them break her spirits and turn her into a completely different person. Yet why does
Cinderella still get this unfair and unjust punishment?
Because for the Tremaines, not only
is it so much easier to blame (especially since they want things
to be easy for them and not Cinderella) than to take responsibility, but providing them with an excuse to punish Cinderella gives them another chance to overload her with work. While Cinderella gets this unjust punishment, the Tremaines just literally sit back, laze about, and enjoy seeing her
“get it,” all while hoping that Cinderella will show her misery and snap at them, which, in turn, would be a further excuse for them to give her more work, as a punishment.
Furthermore, it’s also another example of them (especially Anastasia and Lady Tremaine for this moment) wanting
to be right and superior to Cinderella, whom they think should be
wrong and inferior to them. Remember, the Tremaines hate Cinderella just because she is kinder and more beautiful than them, but Anastasia
and Drizella are really the ones who are vain. Lady Tremaine is not vain like
them or even like the evil queen, but her jealousy stems from the fact that she sees
Cinderella as a threat to improve her own family status, and she relies
on that with her daughters by hoping to marry them off to wealthy noblemen. Like their mother, the girls view Cinderella as a major competition and threat (which they won’t stand for or tolerate) when it comes to wooing men because, with her kindness and beauty, Cinderella is the kind of woman that men
would want and love, not ungraceful, ugly ones like Drizella and Anastasia.
Due to these feelings of superiority (particularly Lady Tremaine, who no doubt has a superiority complex in my mind), the Tremaines just
cannot stand having Cinderella be right about or better than them at
anything, no matter how major or minor the matter is or might be. So they all try to
break her by attempting to make her look unattractive or behave like them (or worse,
so then they would look like the better ones and not her). But
by not changing her ways or outwardly showing her resentment, anger, and sadness, Cinderella indirectly tells them that she
refuses to let them do that to her, and they just absolutely hate it.
with each passing day, as Cinderella remains beautiful and kind, thus refusing to behave like them or look unattractive, the Tremaines grow to hate her more and more.