hanspaper - 5 June 2007 Professor Cathy Preston ENGL 3856...

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5 June 2007 Professor Cathy Preston ENGL 3856 “The Little Andersen Mermaid” In “The Little Mermaid” Hans Christian Andersen addresses power struggles in both domestic and social ideology. Embedded within the tale are power struggles between social and class divisions. Many of the elements of the story parallel Andersen’s life and his own struggle moving up the social stratum. Born as a proletariat, Andersen wished to assimilate of the upper class and the story of “The Little Mermaid” follows in the same tradition. Andersen underwent his own form of social transformation similar to the little mermaid, but Andersen was never felt he was fully accepted by the bourgeois. Hans Christian Andersen drew from a wide range of motifs in the fairy tale tradition when creating the little mermaid. There is a dominant female figure, the little mermaid’s grandmother who aids her in her journey. The little mermaid quests to find her lost lover and undergoes a transformation in order to try to win the love of the prince. The little mermaid desires the love of the prince, but also a human soul, or else she becomes “foam on the ocean”(Hallett, p.230). Andersen draws heavily on Christian overlays in his tale as well with the desire to transcend into a spiritual world. For this reason, “…Andersen was able to receive the bourgeois seal of good housekeeping” (Zipes, p.81). His tales are easily accepted by Western culture because of their “Protestant Ethic” and accessibility to the values of Western culture (Zipes, p.81). For example, the tale of “The Littler Mermaid” discusses the little mermaids ascension to a Christian salvation. “We, daughters of the air, have not received an eternal soul either; but we can win one by good deeds” (Hallett, p.237). The little mermaid’s good deeds
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will determine her salvation and this caters to the Western Christian tradition of morality. The little mermaid’s salvation is something that could be easily passed on to further generations of children through Andersen’s tales. The little mermaid assumes the role of a sacrificial and helpless female figure. The little mermaid wants the favor of the prince so badly that she drinks a potion to make her a human and to take away her fins. “The little mermaid drank the potion and it felt as if a sword were piercing through her body” (Hallett, p.231). In drinking the potion, the
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hanspaper - 5 June 2007 Professor Cathy Preston ENGL 3856...

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