Study Guide

Ella Enchanted Rules and Order

By Gail Carson Levine

Rules and Order

Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally. (1.25)

Well, duh. Coerced obedience isn't actually obedience; it's just coercion.

Our hallway was empty. I followed it to the spiral staircase and walked down, remembering the times Mother and I had slid down the bannister. We didn't do it when people were around. "We have to be dignified," she would whisper then, stepping down the stairs in an especially stately way. (1.63-64)

Ah, etiquette. It makes hypocrites of us all. But this passage does raise an interesting question: why do we think it's okay to behave one way when people are watching, and then a totally different way when they're not?

"We don't do big magic. Lucinda's the only one. It's too dangerous." (4.48)

Most fairies abide by the rules Mandy explains (to maintain their anonymity and thus their safety). It's too bad Lucinda is such a rebel—Ella's life would have been way easier if she weren't such a rebel. But would Ella have ended up marrying the prince?

I had to carry the stinking slippers back to our room, but Hattie had to wear them until she was able to get fresh ones from her trunk. After that, she thought more carefully about her commands. (8.39)

Even total obedience to rules can be subverted by loopholes and cleverness. Which is good for the underdog so long as the overdog isn't the one who's more clever, right?

I struggled for a quarter hour till Sewing Mistress rushed to my side. "The child has been raised by ogres or worse!" she exclaimed, snatching it away from me. "Hold it delicately. It's not a spear." (9.34)

Because clearly, not being able to thread a needle properly implies that you've been raised by man-eating monsters. Obviously.

But in bed, before I fell asleep, I'd imagine what I would do if I were free of Lucinda's curse. At dinner I'd paint lines of gravy on my face and hurl meat pasties at Manners Mistress. I'd pile Headmistress's best china on my head and walk with a wobble and a swagger till every piece was smashed. Then I'd collect the smashed pottery and the smashed meat pasties and grind them into all my perfect stitchery. (10.73)

Whoa. That's a whole lot of chaos to counteract all the order and rules Ella feels are imposed on her at finishing school. It makes you wonder…is it necessary to go to the opposite (and quite savage) extreme in order to protest unwelcome rules-mongering?

I admire the daughter, Ella, but she has gone to finishing school, where I fear she will be made less admirable. What do they teach in such places? Sewing and curtsying? It is a great distance to go to learn such paltry tricks. (12.35)

Char doesn't seem to care much about etiquette, despite being royalty. Seems like he knows to look to at people's character rather than at their ability to follow arbitrary rules and make handcrafts.

"Manners Mistress knows your father's opinion about everything. She said he would exile any subject who ate blancmange from a soup bowl." (15.62)

Now, we may have had to look up what blancmange is (we were relieved to find out that it's not communicable), but we would definitely die of shame if we ate it from a soup bowl. It's so important to understand all of these rules in order to avoid making a faux pas, wouldn't you agree?

"I agree. Love shouldn't be dictated." "Nothing should be dictated!" An idiotic remark to a future king, but I was thinking of Lucinda. (21.87-88)

At least Ella and Char seem to be on the same page about how nobody should be ordered or forced to be in love with someone else. Seems like that's an important thing for a married couple to agree upon.

"Marry me, Ella," he said again, the order a whisper now. "Say you'll marry me." Anyone else could have said yes or no. This wasn't a royal command. Char probably had no idea he'd given an order. (29.48-49)

We're not sure if it's sweet that Char has no idea that he's giving an order to Ella, or just dumb that he's so used to people doing what he says that it doesn't occur to him to not throw his power around.