Study Guide

Ella Enchanted Power

By Gail Carson Levine

Power

"I didn't know till she was too sick. We can't stop dying." (4.9)

Mandy's explanation of why she could not save Ella's mother reveals that not even fairies have total power over life and death. Great. What's the good of having a fairy godmother if they can't even keep you alive, right?

Finishing school! … They'd try to rid me of my clumsiness, but they wouldn't be able to. So they'd punish me, and I'd punish them back, and they'd punish me some more. (4.128)

Sometimes power means being able to punish, and sometimes power means being able to resist and push back. Even though Ella's aware of how vulnerable she is to orders, she's determined to resist them even at high cost to herself. Which is pretty powerful in itself. (Just… remember to choose your battles. We don't want anyone getting suspended because of this, Shmoopers.)

Ogres weren't dangerous only because of their size and their cruelty. They knew your secrets just by looking at you, and they used their knowledge. When they wanted to be, they were irresistibly persuasive. (6.55)

The power to persuade someone to do anything you want is pretty awesome. Also pretty dangerous for other people, especially when the wielder of that power is an ogre who enjoys the taste of human flesh.

And so it went. Hattie issued commands and I retaliated. But there was no balance. Hattie was always ahead. She had the power. She held the whip. (11.39)

Oh, fun. We love being tyrannized over. Sure, Ella can take revenge on Hattie in subtle ways, but if she's powerless to disobey a direct command—and if Hattie realizes that—then she's in pretty big trouble.

I knew I was happy only because I'd been ordered to be, but the happiness was absolute. … I imagined future commands, awful ones, ones that would kill me, and I glowed at the idea of obeying them. (18.28)

What's worse than knowing you're subject to someone else's power? Knowing that you'll enjoy every minute of it. (Or maybe getting eaten by velociraptors.)

I stepped away. "If you speak to me at all today, Hattie," I hissed, "I'll snatch your wig and pass it around to the guests." (20.25)

Blackmail: one of the more effective forms of power. Ella's not normally mean-spirited, but she knows that if she lets Hattie get close enough to utter a command she's finished. So she fights back with what she's got: that Hattie doesn't want anyone to know she's wearing a wig.

The younger stepsister, Olive, said little, but the little was astonishing. She wanted to know whether people had to give me their wealth if I told them to. When I asked her why I'd want to take my subjects' money, she was surprised. "To become richer," she said as though stating the obvious. (22.51)

Well, it's a good thing that Olive isn't going to become queen. This entry from Char's journal shows that her idea of power is all wrong: she equates royal power with complete control over subjects and views its ultimate goal as wealth rather than, you know, helping keep those subjects safe and happy.

I watched Lucinda. She muttered no incantations, waved no wand. For a moment, her gaze shifted, and she seemed to stare within, not out. Then she winked at me. (26.89)

This is kind of cool, since we're used to thinking of fairy power as involving, like, dust and waving magic wands. Instead, it comes from within … just like Ella's power. (Well, she does have a little fairy blood.)

Char was looking at me with such gladness, and I loved him so. I was the cause of his joy and would be the cause of his destruction: a secret delivered to his enemies, a letter written in my own hand, a covert signal given by me, poison in his glass, a dagger in his ribs, a fall from a parapet. (29.47)

We didn't get much of a sense that being Kyrria's monarch was so dangerous, but evidently it is. In the end, Ella's determination not to be the instrument of harm to Char is what lets her save herself. Loving freely turns out to be the same as the power to determine your own life choices.

"No," I shouted. "I won't marry you. I won't do it. No one can force me!" … "Who would force you?" Char sounded shocked. (29.64-65)

Who would force Ella to marry? Well, hm, her father totally would if it would benefit him. So would Dame Olga and Hattie (and maybe Olive if she were smart enough to think of it). The fact that it doesn't occur to Char to use his status to force Ella to marry him makes him pretty unique (and marriageable) among the characters in the book.