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Fairy Tale Vs. Perrault's The Sleeping Beauty In The Wood

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In Margaret Atwood’s poem “There Was Once”, Atwood uses irony to point out the societal problems within the genre of fairy tales. Charles Perrault, the author of the short story “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood”, writes about fantastic creatures, magic, and love, following the generic conventions of fairy tales. When compared to Perrault’s short story “The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood”, Atwood’s poem both compliments and contrasts Perrault’s. These two texts, although similar, offer different views on the genre of fairy tales. Margaret Atwood’s satirical poem, “There Was Once”, aims to disrupt the generic conventions of a traditional fairy tale. Atwood begins with the traditional opening of a fairy tale by writing, “there once was a poor girl,…show more content…
Perrault’s fairy tale follows the generic conventions of a traditional fairy tale which is what Atwood had been condemning. The tale begins with the sentence, “there were formerly a king and a queen, who were sorry they had no children”, which is the normally the beginning of most fairy tales (Perrault 398). The most notable characteristic of a fairy tale begins with the phrase “once upon a time” or a variation of it such as Perrault’s “there were” (398). Unlike Atwood, Perrault mentions that the princess was “the most beautiful person in the world” (399), focusing on more of a materialistic aspect of the princess instead of Atwood’s more realistic view of her. Perrault’s fairy tale includes other generic conventions like a handsome prince saving the day and marrying the princess, a happy ending, and an evil queen. The reader’s understanding of the fairy tale genre changes when reading this story and reading Atwood’s. Perrault follows all of the generic conventions of a fairy tale while Atwood challenges them. The reader would have a new perspective on Perrault’s story after reading Atwood’s because it allows them to recall how all fairy tales are very similar and stick to their generic conventions. This allows people to think about the way society sees women as homemakers and men as breadwinners,…show more content…
Perrault, a 17th century French author, wrote about women as damsels in distress in his fairy tales, while Atwood, a 20th and 21st century Canadian author, offers a more realistic and modern approach in her writing. Sharon Wilson, author of the essay “Margaret Atwood and the Fairy Tale: Postmodern Revisioning In Recent Texts”, calls Atwood’s use of fairy tales to talk about current issues in society as “meta-fairy tales”. Atwood’s “meta-fairy tales” offer insight on gender politics in a current patriarchal society. Instead of using generic conventions to tell her story, like Perrault does, Atwood uses them and then dismantles them in order to show the reader the problems within the genre like she does in her poem. Atwood began the story as the female lead being beautiful, but changed her to being average looking, and changes the stereotypical evil stepmother to an evil stepfather. On the contrary, Perrault follows the basic generic conventions of fairy tales by having the prince marry the beautiful princess and writes the main antagonists as two older women. Perrault uses his story to frame the prince as the hero who saves the sleeping princess and her kingdom, and later saves his family from his evil cannibalistic mother. Perrault’s story has more of a magical aspect than Atwood’s since he includes fairies and curses in his story. Perrault’s story offers an escape from the trials and
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