Saturday, October 6, 2012

Anne Sexton's Snow White

Anne Sexton’s poem “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” is a different take on the popular Grimm tale.  Sexton’s poem loses the timeless element. The poem has many modern day references. For example, the bodice is wrapped “as tight as an ace bandage” and Snow White has eyes “as wide as Orphan Annie”. These references enhance the imagery in the reader’s mind, since these images are references that the modern reader understands. However, this infusion of pop culture adds a modern element to the old fairy tale. The poem is told as a lesson, as the author says “Beauty is a simple passion/ but, oh my friends, in the end/ you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes”. The first person interjection gives the reader the feeling that the Sexton is telling us this tale as a lecture. It adds a new spin on the traditional lesson that the Grimms strived to put into their fairytales.  The lesson in the poem comes from the author, not the story itself.  Lastly, Sexton refers to specific times: “on the seventh week” and “the prince came one June day”. An important feature of the Grimm fairy tale is the timelessness. The fairy tale is inspiring because of the idea that it can happen to anyone at any time. The poem loses this feature by referring to specific times and using pop culture references.

                Personally, I prefer the Grimm fairy tale, because of its timelessness. Part of the magic of hearing it is being taken away from your own time and place. The poem, instead, roots you to the present, because it causes you to think about references that come up in your everyday life and the present time.  The Grimm fairy tale carries you away from your on world and allows you to dream about anytime you want: past, present or future. The poem has lost this important feature by talking about specific time frames and using modern day references. Also, I think the poem loses some of the beauty of the tale by showcasing the lesson. To me, the less obvious message in the Grimm tale is preferable because you are able to analyze it on your own. The Anne Sexton poem has an obvious message: vanity ultimately leads to destruction. I prefer the Grimm fairy tale to the more modernize Anne Sexton poem because of its timelessness and subtle message.

                There is one element of the poem that I did like, and that is the ending. In the end, Sexton narrates that Snow White gazes at herself in the mirror. This is not an action that the Grimm Snow White ever completes. Sexton believes in a cyclical version of Snow White, where, in the end, Snow White ends up like her stepmother. She is vain and therefore will eventually succumb to a jealousy that feeds evil. The Grimm tale has a happy ending for Snow White, as she marries the prince and the story ends. Nothing is ever mentioned about her life afterwards. In Sexton’s version, it shows that Snow White cannot escape any unhappiness or evil through marriage, because eventually the cycle will repeat itself and she will become like her evil stepmother.

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