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University of Alabama Role of Witch Grimm Version of Snow White Essay

Context

The death of the witch within the fairy tale has been interpreted by scholars like Maria Tatar as the psychological purpose of the tale. Tatar sees the silencing of the witch as an attempt to silence the “sinful parts” of the self or of society in order to restore order. Indeed, the manner in which the witch dies at the end of the Snow White tales, provides great insight into society’s need to suppress the threat posed by the witch. In a way, the happy ever after seems to be possible only after the brutal end of the witch.

In the revisions of the Snow White tale, whether it be in European texts of the 19th and 20th centuries or more recently, the poem by Anne Sexton, the fate of the evil queen/ wicked stepmother/witch at the end, offers new understanding of the role of the witch and the position of women in society. Gilbert and Gubar have argued against “the acceptance and perpetuation of female repression” as Snow White is silenced, imprisoned and displayed in the casket, awaiting marriage and maternity. Many feminist revisions of the Snow White tale have focused on the “wicked stepmother’s” role in revising this usual trajectory as a way of opposing social mores.

More recently, attempts have been made to see Snow White’s desire for the forbidden apple as being comparable to that of the evil queen’s hunger. Both Snow White and the queen have been inextricably linked, thus questioning the dichotomy between the good woman and the bad woman.

Purpose

Based on these changes in the portrayal of witches over the years, this assignment asks you to analyze the role of the witch in Grimm’s and/or Sexton’s version (or any of the others provided under readings) of Snow White and present a convincing argument about what the tale is trying to convey about witches and why.

  • In a literary analysis, you are expected to present an argument regarding the tale’s theme (what is the author trying to tell the readers), and logically develop this argument with evidence (both quotations and paraphrase) from the text.
  • Scholarly research is not required.
  • The purpose is not to relate to the story or summarize its content, but to carefully mark specific literary devices, use evidence from the tale(s) to support your claims about those devices, and establish how such devices help the author convey their theme/message.

Goal

The goal of this assignment is to teach you to engage in critical reading in order to identify the underlying themes of literary texts, and to understand the relevance of those themes in society.

Process

  • Start by identifying the main idea or theme of the Snow White tale.
  • You have been reading and marking the text, but it will be helpful to re-read portions of the text to locate evidence for your claims about literary devices, which support your main idea.
  • Formulate a preliminary thesis in terms of what the author is trying to convey and how they successfully manage to convey it.
  • Make an outline of the claims and evidence that will be necessary for you to support your argument.
  • In the introduction, you may want to set the context of the author and the writing or start with the larger context of witches and their historical portrayals before narrowing down to the author and the fairy tale. At the end of the introduction, you will need a thesis statement which makes a precise claim about what the author is trying to convey about witches and how they convey it.
  • In the conclusion, you will not only touch upon your main ideas, but dwell on the larger implications of the fairy tale and its relevance.
  • Mechanics: you should avoid using the first person, “I.” Instead, you can simply present your assertions/claims and they are supposed to be expressive of your opinion which derives from your analysis. You should also refer to the work throughout in the present tense.

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