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A Feminist Interpretation of Tanith Lee’s “When The Clock Strikes”.
The earliest fairy tales have been published in a patriarchal society where girls had small rights and played a subordinate function, raised to bow to male authority. As a outcome, most conventional fairy tales tend to reflect the norms of such a society. Even some common contemporary versions nonetheless undermine female authority by presenting girls who are objectified and effortlessly pitted against every other due to petty motives. In “Feminism and Fairy Tales,” Karen Rowe discusses the anti-feminist sentiments of fairy tales and explains the significance of powerful female characters. We need to ask, is it even achievable to retell “Cinderella” in a feminist manner? In her modern day retelling “When The Clock Strikes” which was written in 1983, Tanith Lee bargains with Cinderella’s anti-feminist history in complicated methods. Lee’s story revolves around a young girl referred to as ‘Ashella’ who practices dark magic, taught to her by her mother, and performs ‘evil’ tasks but still ends up victorious. It may possibly appear, at 1st, that Lee’s tale which “bears witness against women” goes along with Rowe’s conclusion that “the liberation of the female psyche has not matured with enough strength” (358) to strongly challenge the patriarchal society. Even so, I argue that regardless of expectations of passive female characters Lee’s fairy tale defy the norms by presenting ‘evil’ but effective female characters.
Whilst most Cinderella tales barely mention the mother, “When The Clock Strikes” presents Ashella’s mother with an irreplaceable function. According to Marina Warner, in most “familiar retellings” of Cinderella “the heroine’s mother no longer plays a part” (205). This quote refers to how properly-known fairy tales frequently portray a father-daughter bond although forgetting to involve the natural mother. Warner explains the cultural explanation for removal of mothers by stating that writers could not make material exactly where maternal figures are ambivalent or hazardous since it may well adversely impact the audience, who were predominantly young children. This argument is directed towards the common versions of Cinderella, but Lee’s retelling is connected to the older versions where mothers are significant. In contrast to Warner’s claims, Rowe argues that “mothers enforce their daughter’s conformity” (349), exactly where the noun ‘conformity’ refers to one’s compliance with the set requirements and regulations. Rowe implies that the significance of a mother-daughter connection has been undermined in fairy tales, and the extent of influence that these relationships can have is demonstrated in Lee’s operate. Ashella is her mother’s helper and has been “recruited into her service practically as soon as the infant could walk” (Lee, 119). The use of ‘infant’ rather of youngster is interesting considering that it emphasizes Ashella’s innocence and conveys how malleable she was when her mother started to teach her black magic. Additionally, Lee utilises the verb “recruited”, creating it look as although Ashella was being referred to as into military service where supervisors or commanding officers shape the soldiers’ conformity, and her mother occupies the role of the supervisor. Also, she swore Ashella “to the fellowship of Hell” (Lee, 120), an event which dictates her actions all through the story. Ashella’s mother, in spite of her evil nature, depicts strength and promotes feminist sentiments since, even although she was killed, she stood up for her beliefs and by staying correct to her faith, she prevails more than the patriarchy. Consequently, the utilisation of a maternal character who is effective and dangerous defy norms even though advertising strong female influences.
Despite their opposing views on the function of mothers, each Warner and Rowe agree that the stepmother is an embodiment of female rivalry. Warner states that the second wife “often identified herself and her children in competition” (213) and Rowe’s essay supports this claim by stating that the stepmother embodies “obstacles against this passage to womanhood” as properly as “female rivalry, predatory sexuality and constrictive authority” (Rowe, 348). The stepmother in Lee’s fairy tale, when compared to those from Perrault’s and Brothers Grimm’s versions, is far more willing to accept Ashella. Nevertheless, she quickly tires of her grave behaviour and exclaims that the men and women will believe that she and her daughters mistreat Ashella “from jealousy of her dead mother” (Lee, 122). The noun ‘jealously’ hints to the futile rivalry in between the dead mother and the stepmother, and given that the mother is no longer a portion of the story, this competitiveness is redirected towards Ashella. Additionally, Rowe also says that the rivalry with the stepmother personifies “the adolescent’s negative feelings toward her mother” (Rowe, 348). Even although Rowe’s arguments are directed towards the well-known classic versions of Cinderella, we need to ask if her words can still apply to the contemporary retellings or not. Her claim does not look entirely acceptable to Ashella’s predicament simply because, due to her close bond with her late mother, the existent female rivalry stems from Ashella’s devotion to her mother. In fact, Ashella exerts her superiority more than the stepmother by not engaging in such petty rivalries. This is also an instance of how the mother, despite being deceased, still influences Ashella’s choices and relationships. For that reason, female rivalry is not what the stepmother embodies in “When The Clock Strikes”, but she personifies Ashella’s determination to execute her mother’s wishes, and this shows strength of character.
For centuries, fairy tales have revolved around very good natured and passive heroines, but Lee’s “When The Clock Strikes” rebels against this norm. As stated by Warner, “authentic energy lies with the negative women” and in Lee’s modern tale, “sinister and gruesome forces are magnified and prevail throughout” (Warner 207). Warner’s definition of a ‘bad’ woman refers to an individual who is unchangeably evil in their really nature and ‘power’ implies the potential to act independently and make influential choices. Although it can be argued that Ashella’s mother is punished due to her nefariousness, it is a lot more critical to note that Ashella is rewarded, regardless of getting like her mother, because this ending distinguishes Lee’s story from the classic versions. Some could argue that portraying a woman as evil is anti-feminist, but the truth that this evil woman emerges victorious makes Lee’s story feminist. An instance of Ashella’s triumph is hidden within Lee’s tale: “Only one thing was left behind. A woman’s shoe. A shoe no lady could ever have danced in. It was created of glass” (Lee, 128). The very first line, “only a single issue was left behind”, evidently conveys that at the finish of the ball, Ashella was the 1 left standing. The third and fourth lines subtly juxtapose power and fragility the shoe is a metaphor for Ashella’s difficult journey which no other ordinary lady, or man for that matter, could have survived. The glass in this predicament refers to Ashella’s emotional fragility, which is observed throughout the period in which she smothered herself with ashes, and use of previous tense such as “was” suggests that she has overcome that vulnerability. Rowe elaborates on this argument by supplying a purpose why characters are passive in the first spot: “‘Romance’ glosses more than the heroine’s impotence: she is unable to act independently or self-assertively she relies on external agents for rescue” (Rowe, 345). Contemplating that romance is not a important theme in Lee’s version, Ashella does not passively wait for “external agents of rescue” or a prince to sweep her off her feet. Rather, she acts independently and liberates herself from the weight of her desires for vengeance. By means of making a non-passive heroine, Lee shows the contrast among Ashella and most Cinderella’s who want godmothers and princes to rescue them.
Anti-feminist ideals have been incorporated into fairy tales for several centuries, and it has led to stereotypes which typically convey that ladies need to have males to act as their heroes basically, numerous common fairy tales market the idea of damsels-in-distress. “When The Clock Strikes” by Tanith Lee is a pro-feminist Cinderella story which revolves around a female hero who achieves her objectives with tiny external help. Warner and Rowe are both critics that have robust views on feminism, and comparing the two with relation to Tanith Lee’s story enables us to see how this modern retelling is different from the classic versions. By presenting stronger, dominant female characters and not including romance as a key theme of the story, Lee primarily challenges the concepts of conventional Cinderella stories and properly presents a feminist retelling of it.
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