I was listening to the song “Impossible! It’s Possible!” from the Rogers and Hammerstein Cinderella earlier today. There is a line near the beginning of the song where the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella that sensible people would say, “Impossible for a plain country bumpkin and a prince to join in marriage!” However, the Fairy Godmother tells her that “. . . impossible things are happening every day,” and turns the line around to, “It’s possible for a plain country bumpkin and prince to join in marriage!”
By the time of Jane Austen, the story of Cinderella had been around for well more than one hundred years. Did Miss Austen think of this story as she wrote of Darcy and Elizabeth? Our heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, was such a voracious reader that I’m sure she was familiar with the story. Do you think Elizabeth ever considered herself like Cinderella?
They both came from different social spheres, ones that were not likely to intersect. Both had a wicked stepmother, so to speak, in Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourge. Both even had ugly stepsisters in Lydia Bennet and Caroline Bingley. You might even consider Mr. Bingley and the Gardiners as Fairy Godparents in bringing them together.
Perrault ended the story with two morals, the first of which is that beauty is a treasure that no one tires of seeing, but graciousness or goodness is a priceless trait. Without it we are nothing and with it, we can achieve anything.
Graciousness is defined as pleasantly kind, benevolent, merciful, or compassionate. Darcy and Elizabeth, though possessing a beauty that attracted them to one another, did not possess the graciousness or goodness need to help them see past their own faults. It was not until Darcy could be truly kind and courteous, and Elizabeth could feel compassion for the things that made him act as he did that they could find their love for one another. They could not have their happily ever after was impossible until they could be truly gracious to one another.
Our world would be a much better place if more people remembered Mr. Perrault’s first moral from Cendrillon!
I’ve included the sweet words of Charles Perrault’s first moral below:
Beauty’s to the sex a treasure,
Still admir’d beyond all measure,
And never yet was any known,
By still admiring, weary grown.
But that rare quality call’d grace,
Exceeds, by far, a handsome face;
Its lasting charms surpass the other,
And this rich gift her kind godmother
Bestow’d on Cinderilla fair,
Whom she instructed with such care.
She gave to her such graceful mien,
That she, thereby, became a queen.
For thus (may ever truth prevail)
We draw our moral from this tale.
This quality, fair ladies, know
Prevails much more (you’ll find it so)
T’ingage and captivate a heart,
Than a fine head dress’d up with art.
The fairies’ gift of greatest worth
Is grace of bearing, not high birth;
Without this gift we’ll miss the prize;
Possession gives us wings to rise.
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