Almost every fairy tale involves a battle between good and evil, and this one's no exception. The interesting part about the way Sexton retells the story, though, is that it's not quite clear in "Cinderella" that the title character is perfectly good. She's certainly not bad, but she's also kind of passive. She doesn't really do anything throughout the entire story. We get no character development for her. It's just that her mom dies (sad), she has a magical tree (happy!), and she's been wronged by her stepfamily (sad again). The prince isn't portrayed as exactly charming either. So while "good" wins out in the end (yay!), one of the important questions in the poem has to do with what "good" and "bad" really are in fairy tales (hmm). Maybe, the poem suggests, we ought to reevaluate what makes a protagonist "the good guy" in many of our favorite children's stories.
Questions About Good vs. Evil
Is there an absolute "good" force in this poem? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
Do you think the stepsisters get what they deserve in the end?
What do you think the larger forces of good and evil are in this poem? (If this seems a little difficult, we'll help: beyond good/evil characters, what else is good or evil about this poem?)
Do you think that the prince is good?
Chew on This
Happily ever after?! "Cinderella" makes the classic fairy tale ending, where good triumphs over evil, much more complicated and disturbing.
Sorry, gang. All the characters' rampant shallowness prevents any of them from being truly good.