Feminist Criticism Of The Little Mermaid

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When I first watched Disney 's version of "The Little Mermaid" when I was younger, I knew there was something wrong with Ariel giving up her voice. I was so annoyed at her for making that decision -- Why would she give up her talent and her ability to talk for Prince Eric? What was even the point of doing that if she couldn 't talk to him? After now having read the original Hans Christian Anderson version, this time with a feminist theoretical lens applied to the story, I better understand why elementary-school-me recognized the problem with the mermaid giving up her voice: Women having a voice, and having it heard, is something for which feminists have fought hard. At times, "The Little Mermaid" encourages female readers to not use their …show more content…
When the mermaid asks, "If you take away my voice, what will I have left?," the sea witch responds with, "Your lovely figure, your graceful movements, and your expressive eyes. With those you can easily enchant a human heart." After the mermaid chooses to give up her voice, and in turn, her family and home, she realizes that her beauty does not matter. Without her voice, she cannot truly be herself, she cannot speak up and say what she wants, and she does not have the autonomy for which she yearned; her beauty could only get her so far. The mermaid is so depressed by not having a voice, and losing what she loves because if it, that she decides to let herself die. Anderson teaches readers another lesson through his fairy tale, as well. When the mermaid dies, she finds what can make her happy: eternal life. And this was granted not because of her beauty earning her a place at the altar next to the prince, but because of her kindness. So along with the importance of having and using your voice, Anderson also teaches us that how we act toward others -- not beauty -- is of upmost importance. Another time this can be seen is when the mermaid 's sisters cut off their beautiful hair in order to save her. Here, beauty is being given up because it is realized that there are more important things in life, such as keeping your loved ones close. While there are definitely problems with the way beauty and women 's agency are portrayed in the "Little Mermaid," I do think that readers can learn positive messages from Anderson 's

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