In the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of Ella Enchanted, I have no qualms about stating that this is one of the most existentially disturbing things I’ve ever read. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Ella Enchanted.
Chapter Seventeen / Chapter Eighteen
- I HAD SO MUCH HOPE AND ALL OF IT WAS TAKEN AWAY IN THE WORST WAY IMAGINABLE.
- I AM SO UNCOMFORTABLE
- THE COVER OF THIS BOOK IS A TRICK, THERE SHOULD BE NO SMILES BECAUSE EVERYTHING HURTS.
- Okay, this is all tempered by giant weddings, which I cannot deny are BRILLIANT and WONDERFUL and UTTERLY FASCINATING. I love that the giants want strangers and other species to come visit them for the wedding; I love that they barely accommodate them; and I love that this is all such a grand opportunity for Ella to take this event in.
- And what a spectacle this is. The giants’ wedding ceremony is a thing of beauty, a loving and complex custom that’s about celebrating the entire life the giant and giantess are about to share. Well, Ella also spends the entire ceremony making sure to keep an eye on the fairies present, hoping that one of them is indeed Lucinda.
- But let’s talk about the ceremony first. The start of it is clearly about growth. The giants plant seeds of corn into the ground and then somehow WILL RAIN TO FALL ON IT because they’re giants and they do not care about the confines of weather. Then they pantomime their life, and it’s a fascinating imagination of what is to come. I also should have realized at the time that Levine was dropping some foreshadowing on us when Ella wondered if the pantomime actually helped the giants to have a better life together. BECAUSE OH MY GOD LUCINDA.
- It’s not long after the ceremony is over that the most beautiful of the fairies approaches the bride and groom, who PLEAD WITH HER. Oh no, it’s happening again. OH NO.
- THEN LUCINDA IS JUST GONE?!?!?! BUT ELLA TRAVELED SO FAR TO GET HERE. YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME.
- Oh, Gail Carson Levine is not kidding at all. Lucinda disappearing and not returning? That would have been a better outcome than what actually happens. By giving us a chance to see how Lucinda works, we learn that she represents the most literal manifestation of good intentions. Seriously, by all rights, she clearly wants the best for the creatures she visits, and that’s what we see here. She was so moved by the wedding ceremony that she gave the newlyweds the gift of “companionship and felicitous union.”
- BY MAKING IT LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM TO EVER BE APART.
- Y’all, even the two fairies with Lucinda know immediately what an absolute disaster this is. They try to explain to her that even people in love need to have time apart, but Lucinda refuses to listen to anything her fairy friends say. She’s doing something “good” in her eyes, so that means nothing bad can come of it.
- I didn’t think it could get worse for Ella. Lucinda might turn her down, but Ella’s curse could not get any worse, right?
- “I knew how sweet you were the moment I saw you. Obedience is a marveous gift, Elle. Sometimes I give that gift to little babies. I certainly won’t take it away from you. Be happy to be blessed with such a lovely quality.”
- In one instant, this becomes so disturbing that I just wanted to cry. Ella is not just obedient anymore; she experiences elation whenever she obeys.
- THIS SENTENCE:
- “I imagined future commands, awful ones, ones that would kill me, and I glowed at the idea of obeying them.”
- It’s more clear than ever that Levine is forcing us, through Ella, to examine just why obedience as a virtue can be a truly horrifying thing. Ella’s curse is an extreme manifestation, but if young women are raised to believe that they must always obey, then what does that actually look like? Are they even their own person if they are taught that they should be demure and accepting of what others demand of them?
- What’s so sad to me about this is how quickly Ella gives up. She stops fighting. She stops wanting anything more for her life. She is so eager and willing that she gleefully agrees to do whatever her father might want, which in this case is MARRYING SOMEONE SO HE CAN STILL BE RICH.
- Mandy’s reaction to discovering what Lucinda did to Ella DEVASTATED ME. Here was Ella’s first true friend, faced with an impossible turn of events, and she most likely has no idea how she could ever fix this. I thought it was significant that she refused to order Ella around anymore, which implied that she knew how bad this was. Of course, the horrible irony is that this meant that Ella was sad BECAUSE SHE HAD NOTHING TO OBEY.
- It’s a complex situation, one that Levine deals with in ways that build dread and hopelessness in the reader. Ella’s father tries to sneak in some weird mushrooms into the meal that night that “induce feelings of liking and love in those who eat them,” and it’s clear he wants Ella’s potential husband to fall for Ella as quickly as possible. (Let’s just make it canon that Peter now joins John Winchester as Worst Father Ever because HE IS THE WORST.)
- But then Ella must deal with the horrible set of contradictions present in he condition. When the parrot orders Ella to kiss him, she’s stuck between commands and a desire to be happy, and they both pull at her in increasingly destructive ways. Which is more important? Which supercedes the other? What if obeying a command means she must do something that would normally make her unhappy? Is she joyous about not experiencing joy?
- AND THEN IN THE END, PETER ORDERS ELLA TO USE THE MUSHROOMS ANYWAY
- I HATE HIM SO MUCH.
Please note the original text/videos contain uses of the words “mad” and “idiot.”
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