The horror of "happily ever after": power, totalitarianism and the fairy tale ideal
LE3 .A278 2001
Schwenke Wyile, Andrea
Bachelor of Arts
English & Theatre Studies
While many various approaches have been taken to the study of fairy tales this thesis aims at introducing to the field an approach that has not been put to extensive use. In recent years, with the rise of what is referred to under the umbrella of "literary theory," fairy tales have been analysed, in depth, according to such theories as structuralism, psychoanalytic theory, Marxism and, most pervasively, feminism. What has not been attempted, on a large scale, is a post-structuralist approach to the genre. This thesis, in applying to fairy tales the theories and methodologies of Michel Foucault, takes just such an approach. In accordance with Foucault's particular brand of post-structuralism, the study at hand is concerned with the workings of power within the typical fairy tale and especially within the typical fairy tale "happily ever after" ending. When examined through such a template the utopian vision towards which the conventional fairy tale strives becomes one built not upon a foundation of absolute happiness or absolute good, but upon one of absolute power. "Happily ever after" is, for all intents and purposes, a totalitarian state. It is achieved through total dominance and through the elimination of dissent so that, in the end, a single, total, order of things remain. In effect, the fairy tale fantasy of perfect happiness is a reflection of the same "will to power" that (according to the theories of Foucault) forms our reality.
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