UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Not all work is depicted equal : a purposive study of the portrayals of work and power in Ella Enchanted and Fairest Johnson, Jennifer Erin


Western fairy tales include an ideological framework with the ability to absorb and transmit values. While the theme of work has been examined as a factor of patriarchalism and the Protestant work ethic in traditional European tales, there is a paucity of literature discussing its portrayal in contemporary young adult fairy-tale novels and other young adult fiction. This thesis is a “pilot study” that examines the portrayals of work and power in Gail Carson Levine's young adult fairy-tale novels, Ella Enchanted and Fairest. The findings demonstrate how the author constructs active work roles operating on the principles of oppression or self-sacrifice for the community, and passive work roles manifesting as submission, resistance or complicity. They further reveal Levine's adaptation of patriarchalism and the work ethic to strengthen the significance of humanitarianism to the plot and of active and skilled labour to the conclusion. Although she begins to portray teenage work experiences as a transitional step to the adult workforce, her overall depiction connects more strongly to children's fiction. The work of building social relationships is emphasized during the narrative, but removed from the happily-ever-after ending. Although considerable research must be conducted before any conclusions may be drawn regarding the ways work and power feature in all young adult fairy-tale novels, I am pleased to have drawn attention to the subject in my purposive analysis of Ella Enchanted and Fairest.

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