Study Guide

Cinderella Luck

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You always read about it:
the plumber with twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes. (1-3)

When people think of luck, one of the things that often comes to mind is winning the lottery. There's a reason this story is the first example of good luck—it's the most obvious one. Winning the lottery is pure luck. It requires no skill at all, just enough money to buy a ticket and the right combination of numbers.

Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance. (17-19)

All the stories in the first part of the poem are instances of luck or good fortune, but we're focusing here on the two that are most purely luck. This one is a perfect instance of chance—there's no way the charwoman could have known that the bus was going to crash. (And even if she did, that would be a reason to avoid the bus, not to get on it.) It's pure luck that lands her an insurance fortune. These examples set up the cynical, "what-did-she-ever-do-to-deserve-this?", Anne Sexton version of the Cinderella story.

She planted that twig on her mother's grave
and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove
Would drop it like an egg upon the ground. (36-39)

And here is Cinderella's lottery prize: the tree with the white dove. Sweet. Now, Cinderella's no witch. She didn't conjure up the tree and bird from any kind of spell or anything. It just appeared after she planted the twig her father gave her. You could say that she deserves this kind of luck after being treated so badly by her stepfamily. But that's a whole other matter—one that deserves some thought, we think. (So go ahead. Start thinking!).

and the prince took her hand on the spot
and danced with no other the whole day. (6-7)

Cinderella's luck only gets better as the story goes on. This moment is parallel, in a way, to the example story in the beginning about the nursemaid from Denmark. Cinderella is so beautiful in her golden dress that the prince ignores everyone else at the ball. That's a bit of fortune that will land her with a husband and a treasure trove of royal privilege.

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. (100-102, 107)

So this is where Cinderella's fortune takes her. It's a little creepy, this ageless, deathless place where she and the prince end up together. It just goes to show that if you think you're getting something for nothing, you'll end up paying the price. The "happily ever after" is anything but, when you really look at it.

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