Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Theorizing Children’s Literature
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Theorizing Children’s Literature
Children literature continues to be analyzed in a number of ways using divergent theoretical lenses including feminism, multiculturalism, and critical literacy. Given the immense prominence of literature on child development, it is imperative to understand how authors construct their stories from artistic and philosophical approaches. Literature has an overwhelming cultural output that is aimed on children because of their lasting influences on cultural experiences. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is an English family Disney narrative and motion picture that employs various stereotypical literary techniques to convey the intended cultural messages. The book embodies adult concerns and ideologies that are portrayed as topics for children. The plot, characters, themes, and literary techniques encompassed in the narrative goes to talk on the existent culture of early 20th century society. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs carries a powerful meaning of the late Victorian Culture that reflected on convergence of both sexes at child level. Victorian literature portrays both girls and boys as morally intelligent and conscious, despite differences in gender-based perceptions.
Physical Presentation of the Book and Characters
The presentation approach used by the Grimm brothers creates a powerful meaning in the eyes of children through the way the book appears and how it structures its characters. The cover of the book creates a majestic and noble attraction to the reader because of the nature of Victorian appeals surrounding royal behavior. The cover includes a large central image of Snow White, the main character, enclosed within a square red margin. According to Burkert, the use of red color in the Victorian era was associated with royalty (Burkert 1). The subsequent opening pages employ the similar use of large centralized images to continue the ‘royalty’ attraction. Images are not the sole aspects of the book that go to create the majestic feel in the book, as even the format and font in the print is different from the standard styles employed in the artistic era. Text is primarily set at the center, surrounded by large blank white spaces. Importance of the blank spaces is that they create the notion of expansive and boundless thought (Flynn 1). The font is thin and easy to rub off, meaning the print is delicate. Perhaps the nature of print suggests the delicate and gracious natures of children.
The ‘royal’ attraction set by the physical representation of the text foreshadows the attributes of the main protagonist in the narrative. Snow White is a moral, graceful, elegant, and fragile character. These are attributes similar to those of the font and thinness of print. The large size of the book and white spaces capture the adventurous and dreamy traits of Snow White who is endlessly dreamy about love. Before even the reader begins to explore the book, the tone and setting is established already through the physical representation of the book. The ideology behind the physical depiction of the book teaches on the fragile, adventurous, imaginative, and innocent nature of children. According to Albers, the psychology of children is naïve, but highly mysterious (166). Therefore, authors of children literature employ aesthetic research on psychology to determine the most suitable cover style in enhancing child response (Albers166).
Conceptual Presentation of Characters in the Narrative
The way the author presents the characters in Snow White determines how the reader interprets the narrative. The book is made up of many characters, each with unique personalities. There is the graceful Snow White, fearsome Queen, sympathetic Dwarfs, and the lonely and charismatic Prince. The animation of these characters in color and lavish backgrounds sets the family standard required in the book. For instance, the gothic representation of the queen in her dungeon develops the ‘evil’ representation of adults in the fiction. The use of joyful songs by Snow White develops the naïve and pure representation of the female child (Lanes 206). The location of events determines the moods of the setting. For example, the fearsome representation of the forest whenever the Queen walks through it gives the setting a dark mood. Critical in the book is how it applies simple techniques in character representation to realize the emotional connection meant for young children.
Children have their own internal fictional world that influences how they understand literature. Through imagery, authors manipulate these worlds to stimulate more than one sense in the audience allowing the creation of more than one interpretation of text. The Grimm brothers employ several conceptual representation of characters and scenes, some seen and others unseen, to create two separate but parallel experiences in the text. For instance, the reader knows that Snow White is running through a dangerous forest filled with boars, witches, wolves, and other deadly animals. Despite the level of risk, the character is melodic in her songs and has a face depicting serenity. The portrayal of the character assures the reader o her safety. The illustration projects traditional and modern realities, where children are of oblivious innocence within a morally and physically dangerous society (May 19). Children have some level of ignorance towards the severity of the society that they live.
Use of Visual Representations to Capture the Child Setting
The visual representations of events in the reading are of significance to the reader, as they help to illuminate on the cultural elements of the Victorian period. During the social period, artists employed color to act as symbolic icons for children (Mitchell 101). For instance, the authors of Snow White paint the character using archaic and golden paints. Moreover, charcoal or pencil sketches are applied to develop the background of the character. The use of the dark matter facilitates the protagonist to have a soft and appealing setting for children. Perhaps the strongest visual representation employed by the authors is the strong sense of location because of their associative moods. The composition of these locations and characters resemble those of Victorian ideals as children as juxta-positioned as antique and beautiful items with wondering moods.
Interpretation of the Medieval Setting: Gender Divergence and the Relationship between Adults and Childhood
Snow White is a realistic representation of the medieval setting through a feministic eye. The authors appear to objectify feministic ideals in various ways in the text. Burkert who translates the original book by the Grimm brothers relies on her imagination and experiences to structure many of the visual elements according to the cultural setting of the early 20th century (Burkert 3). The author’s fourteen-year-old daughter inspires Snow White while the seven dwarfs are based on anatomical research concerning deformations. Evil in the queen is represented as a simple but faceless power that attacks that which is good in unseen ways. The concept of good is defined implicitly as one found only within a family setting as seen through Snow White and the seven dwarfs (Nodelman 41). The interpretations of the medieval setting do not follow modern liberal ideals that imply happiness and good are concepts found and established internally in all individuals.
Ironic in the application of visual representations is how Snow White, a ‘royal’ character is given the role of a homemaker. For example, the moment that Snow White enters into the homestead in the middle of the dark forest, she frantically criticizes the inhabitants over their untidy nature. She opts to clean the house even though she is unaware of the inhabitants. With respect to Victorian ideals, the fact that Snow White is continuously doing cleaning jobs teaches young girls on how to be clean, tidy and organized (Smith 9). The question is how the behavior relates to majestic behavior since Snow White is a purposeless character who awaits her prince to save her from the domestic drudgeries of her life. Equally, male children are given the objective of saving girls as their main purpose in life, as seen through the prince. Children in the society are associated with morality and just behavior, but the narrative depicts that this sense of consciousness is established under romantic objectives.
There is a huge divergence between children and adult in medieval children literature. Victorian books teach children to be aware and mind the gap between them and adults in the society. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, there is vivid absenteeism of adult or parental figures. The only adult present in the narrative is the evil stepmother who equally denotes the frail relationship between children. Children literature in the Victorian era promoted the divergence of children from adults through their non-integration in children literature (Solis 125). One may argue that writers in children books employ this gap to accentuate the autonomy of characters, but the psychological impact of the approach in childhood development is still adverse. Children might view themselves as inferior to adults in wrong ways. Moreover, through the characterization of the dwarfs, children may develop negative perceptions of deformed or disabled individuals in the society. There are other archetypes employed to present this biased theme in the book. For instance, the ‘primitive child and the earthly mother’ in the opening of the book are depicted using red and black colors respectively (Watson 57). As argued earlier, in Victorian concepts, red symbolizes royalty, while black icons evil. The above motif is a fine representation of the personality divergences between children and adults in children literature.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs represents children in accordance to Victorian ideals, which was the dominant culture during the time of publish. Victorian literature portrays both girls and boys as morally intelligent and conscious, despite differences in gender-based perceptions. The ‘royal’ attraction set by the physical representation of the text foreshadows the attributes of the main protagonist in the narrative, Snow White who is a symbolic representation if the female child. Girls are moral, graceful, elegant, and fragile characters. Children have their own internal fictional world that influences how they understand literature. Writers through imagery manipulate these worlds to stimulate more than one sense in the audience allowing the creation of more than one interpretation of text. The illustration of children as of fictional attributes projects traditional and modern realities, where they are of oblivious innocence within a morally and physically dangerous society. Children have some level of ignorance towards the severity of the society that they live. One of the few aspects where children are knowledgeable is on the gap between them and adults. There is vivid absenteeism of adult or parental figures in medieval children literature. Snow White as a narrative is out-dated because it does not capture the social ideals of the present society.
Albers, Peggy. Theorizing Visual Representation in Children’s Literature. Journal of Literacy Research. 40. 2008. 163-200. Print.
Burkert, N. An Analysis of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Children’s Literature Archive. 29 August 2010. Web. 31 October 2015. http://ryerson.ca/childrenslit/group10.html
Flynn, Stephen. Analysis of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Reflections on Psychology, Culture, and Life. 27 October 2013. Web. 31 October 2015. http://www.cgjungpage.org/learn/articles/analytical-psychology/677-analysis-of-snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarves
Lanes, Selma G. “Songs of Praise: Snow-White Without Walt.” Through the Looking Glass: Further Adventures & Misadventures in the Realm of Children’s Literature. 2004. 205-07. Print.
May, Jill P. Illustrations in Children’s Books. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 6.4 2011. 17-21. Print.
Mitchell, Claudia. Researching Children’s Popular Culture: the Cultural Spaces of Childhood. London; Routledge Publishers. 2009. Print.
Nodelman, Perry. Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2008. Print.
Smith, Marilyn Cochran. “The Art of Nancy Ekholm Burkert.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. 4.3 .2009. 8-10. Print.
Solis, Santiago. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Queer ripped. Hypatia. 22. 1. 2007. 114-131. Print.
Watson, Victor. The Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2011. Print.
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