Mark Reads ‘Ella Enchanted’: Chapters 23 / 24

In the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of Ella Enchanted, Peter’s leave brings about a horrifying bout of treatment towards Ella, but Char gives her hope for a better future. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Ella Enchanted.

Chapter Twenty-Three / Chapter Twenty-Four

  • I’m sticking with what I said in the video for chapter twenty-three: this is a terribly realistic portrayal of what the Cinderella tale would actually have been like. It’s horrifying, visceral, and brutal. It’s fascinating to me because Levine is forcing us to examine the tropes of fairy tales and think about how they’d appear in the real world. If you were perfectly subservient to your entitled and cruel step-family, what would that feel like? What would it entail?
  • The same goes for Sir Peter, who leaves at the beginning of chapter twenty-three to resume his trading outside of Frell. It seems that he’s already figured out a loophole to his own gift from Lucinda, and now he’s exploiting it. He will forever be in love with Olga, but that doesn’t mean he has to be anywhere near her.
  • (I have fear of abandonment, so yeah, his absence here is super upsetting to me.)
  • It literally takes a couple of minutes for Hattie, Olga, and Olive to take advantage of Peter’s absence by miserably controlling Ella, made only worse when Hattie reveals to the others that Ella has to obey commands.
  • I don’t know how any of you read this book as children and survived to recommend it to me. This is, frankly speaking, one of the most relentlessly upsetting and grim things I’ve ever read. And strangely, that’s a compliment for Gail Carson Levine! This whole book is a rumination on consent, friendship, free will, and love, and it’s executed in a way that’s fiercely believable. Well, believable if you like… ignore the ogres and elves. Well, wait. No! Include them! They have their own societies, their own customs, and their own languages. The whole book is surprisingly dense in this sense.
  • Anyway, bless Mandy for not only making sure that she was in charge of Ella as Ella was made a servant, but for bargaining to ensure that Ella remained unharmed. Though… that kind of didn’t matter. Olga and Olive found ways to harm Ella anyway.
  • I no longer feel all that bad for Olive. I understand why she’s the way she is here, and Levine has done a fine job explaining the culture that Olive has grown up in. I think it’s easy to feel sympathy for her because she wasn’t given much of a choice as the forgotten child. That being said, she is HEINOUS to Ella. She exploits Ella’s curse so consistently and viciously that she actually makes Hattie and Olga seem less terrible.
  • The bit where she demands the last three coins from Ella is just… christ. I cannot believe that Olive is standing there, wailing about the unfairness of her older sister and mother having more mother than her WHILE SHE IS STEALING THE LAST BIT OF MONEY THAT ELLA HAS. How is that fair, Olive?????
  • THE SCRUBBING WITH LYE. A direct reference to the original Cinderella tale that’s also A BILLION TIMES MORE UPSETTING. So yeah, I’m not feeling at all bad that Olga basically gets poisoned by Ella with passiflora, which makes her fall asleep. Seriously, it’s the only way Ella is able to exert any power.
  • I wasn’t surprised that Peter did not respond to Ella’s letter that begged him to come him. It was a good effort, and Ella was clever to make it about her father’s pride more than her own suffering. But Peter is a selfish, egotistical capitalist. It was more worthy for him to remain trading out in the world than to return home and rescue is daughter. It’s that simple, and it’s that unfortunate.
  • There’s an undercurrent of class hatred to this book, though, and Peter’s treatment of his daughter is just one example of that. Here’s another:
  • “Until I saw him or heard from him, I would endure. I stayed out of my stepfamily’s way as much as possible, and the longer I worked as a scullery maid, and the filthier I got, the less Hattie and Mum Olga tormented me. I think they gloried in my squalor as proof of my baseness.”
  • I mean, yeah, this is also about control, too, but Hattie and Olga wanted Ella to appear as poor as humanly possible. It’s about subjugating her to the lowest station imaginable.
  • Thankfully, this pair of chapters is graciously tempered by Ella and Char’s letters to one another. Honestly, it’s probably my favorite of Gail Carson Levine’s writing. As these two begin to open up to one another over the letters, they stop hiding behind humor or sarcasm, and their prose becomes gorgeous. It helps that Char moves away from discussing Ayorthaian customs and instead begins to talk about himself. Ella, conversely, has to increasingly build up walls around her because she can’t reveal her curse to Prince Char. And like… I get why her mother restricted her. I get it! I think that Ella would have figured it out on her own, though, and I think she would have known when not to admit her great weakness. It would help to be honest to certain people! Look at how someone like Mandy reacts to the news. Mandy has almost completely stripped imperatives and commands from her speech to accommodate Ella. Certainly, Char would be just as considerate, right?
  • Lord, Char’s flaw is that he holds on to grudges and anger when people hurt the ones he loves. That’s… that’s barely a flaw. Prince Dreamboat is the best.
  • His last letter, though… oh my god. You know, it sucks to say it, but this is going to get ruined, isn’t it? Because now that Char has made his affection clear, Ella can confirm her own feelings towards him. BUT SOMETHING IS GOING TO GET IN THE WAY OF THAT. Hide the letter, Ella. Or burn it! Oh god, TELL NO ONE.
  • I’m scared.

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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