When one thinks of traditional gender stereotypes, women are often thought of as submissive, passive, dependent, and gentle, and men as dominant, active and decisive. Through these gender roles are being challenged today, these characteristics have been seen as the appropriate gender identities for centuries. Examining the portrayal of women and men in literature offers insight into what societies deemed as appropriate gender roles during certain time periods. Many stories throughout history have portrayed males and females following these stereotypical gender roles, and there are countless tales of a man rescuing a woman from some sort of evil or dire situation. Charles Perrault's "Cinderella," published in 1697, is an example of fairytale whose characters align with these gender stereotypes. A close examination of "Cinderella" suggests that Cinderella's goodness lies in her passiveness and beauty. In this paper I argue that Perrault's "Cinderella" reinforces traditional general roles by equating a good woman with one who is passive, physically attractive and dependent. .
Countless examples throughout the story highlight Cinderella's passiveness as the key to her good-natured identity. Perrault introduces Cinderella as a girl of "rare goodness and sweetness of temper" (17). Even though she is subject to terrible chores, living conditions, and treatment from her stepmother and stepsisters, she never complains. When Cinderella's stepsisters ask her if she would want to go the King's son's ball, she replies "young ladies, you only jeer at me; it is not for such as I am to go there," and then proceeds to do her stepsisters' hair perfectly for the ball (17). Because Cinderella is so "good," she automatically accepts that she not going to the ball. She does not ask to go, she does not protest her situation, and she does not reveal any emotion to her stepsisters.