This is a literary analysis of Ella Enchanted. Any comments would be appreciated!
In fairy tales, magic is almost always a key and integrale part of the story; it can shape the story, lead the story, drive the story, it can be used by the antagonist or it can be weapon of the hero. Ella Enchanted is no different but the role that magic plays is different from the typical fairy tale.
From the very first page, magic is introduced to the reader, and its role never diminishes for the rest of the story. In most variants of Cinderella, magic helps her get to the ball, win over the prince and provides her with clothes that are beyond her normal means. Ella Enchanted, on the other hand, takes this idea of magic and expands its role greatly, diversifying it be the antagonist and the protagonist. Not only does magic help her get to the ball in the end, it is also the main cause of her distress throughout the entire story.
At the very beginning Ella is provide with the "gift" of obedience by the fairy Lucinda, and this "gift" forces Ella to obey any direct order, regardless of the request. This causes many problems throughout the book. From small things, such as making her look like a fool, to much larger things that endanger her life and the life of others, Ella is caught in troubling circumstances. This curse, however, explains the reason why she didn't leave her stepmother to begin with when she began to be mistreated.
In most versions of Cinderella, she is portrayed as a quiet, shy and a very obedient girl that allows herself to be walked over. This is much different in Ella Enchanted. Not only is Ella not shy or quiet she is also quite the rebel. Even though this personality trait isn't as evident as it could be since she is forced to obey and be submissive. However, she has her moments that show quite clearly that despite her curse she is independent and rebellious. Take for example, that she runs away from finishing school on a quest to find Lucinda and convince her to remove the curse. She does this alone and without magic which is in strong contrast to most variants where she will not do anything out of the norm unless there is magic involved.
Another good example of this independence is when she is getting ready to go to the ball. She does everything in her power and when that is not enough only then does she resort to magic, and even though she is provided with a carriage and jewelry she uses her own dress, mask and shoes and was planning on going to ball as she was, and only employed magic when her dress would have been ruined by the rain, and all of her effort along with it.
Magic is also present in the in environment of the story, with magical creatures, such as unicorns, centaurs and ogres making their appearance in the story frequently. The ogres played the largest role by capturing and trying to eat the heroine after she runs away from finishing school. They have several magical traits including the power of persuasion, and the ability to see your darkest secrets by simply looking at you. When you combine these two magical powers, it makes a powerful magical foe that is not easily overcome. During the time Ella spends in their captivity she learns their trait of persuasion because she has a gift of languages. This element is ironic since she can not disobey orders and yet she can give them with surprising persuasion. She does not use this power often, however, and this irony goes mostly unnoticed with minimal impact on the story.
The magic in Ella Enchanted also affects Dame Olga (Ella's stepmother) and Ella's father. When Ella's father remarries, Lucinda comes to the wedding and grants another one of her "gifts" to the newly wed couple. She gives the gift of eternal love. Regardless of this, Ella's father still leaves on trading for over a year at a time, which affects Ella adversely because her father was the only thing standing in between Dame Olga and her hate for Ella.
Although the romance for Ella's father was affected by magic, Ella's romantic encounter is affected by magic very little and progresses very naturally, unfettered by magic which is very different from some versions of Cinderella, in which she bewitches the prince by some magical aspect of her appearance. Her relationship is, however, affected indirectly by magic. For instance, the coach that goes to the ball in is, of course magical, like most versions. Ella's curse also affects the relationship, by keeping her from marrying him because she knows that it would put the prince, the kingdom and rest of the royal family in danger, because even though they wouldn't give her any direct orders, other people might, enemies of the king might even order her to kill one or all of the royal family.
Another way that magic is portrayed differently in Ella Enchanted than other versions of Cinderella is the conclusion. In the end it is her overcoming the magic and breaking the curse that allows her to marry the prince not the other way around. This also presents an interesting theory, that love is stronger than magic or that love is magic in and of itself. Although these themes are not totally uncommon in romance literature as a whole, they still are not a common theme in versions of Cinderella. Not only does this strengthen the romance element of the story, it also weakens the overall role of the magic, making the story more believable or relatable.
Despite the overwhelming number of versions of Cinderella that exist, Ella Enchanted sets itself apart from the rest by its clever use of magic in many instances throughout the book, and in contrast to most versions, it does not leave you wondering why she allowed herself to be walked all over. Magic makes a strong appearance in this story without being overbearing, and creates a good balance with Ella's natural desire to be independent and teaches us an important lesson: with good attitude, perseverance, love and patience, we can overcome any obstacle, even magic.