The Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up by Sreetanwi Chakraborty – Book Review
Author: Sreetanwi Chakraborty
Genre: Children’s literature, Cultural Studies, Feminism, World tales, Fairy and fantasy tales
Price: Rs. 350
Publication: Penprints Publication, Kolkata
Year of publication: 2019.
Reviewer: Piyush Kumar Banerjee
The Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up brings forth a comprehensive analysis of the cultural impact of the fairy and folk tales on gender roles. Sreetanwi Chakraborty, who has spent a significant number of years in academia has also tried her hands in different genres of creative writing and has attempted an effective contribution in the area of cultural studies feminist literature through her first book. The book is divided into four midsize chapters, where the primary issues of the book such as the creation of cultural constructs, gender stereotyping in the popular fairy tales and the rewriting of those fairy tales have been discussed explicatively.
The book begins with the author assessing the fairy tales as the medium that has led to the relegation of women to the background for centuries. The traditional fairy stories depicted the male being rewarded while the female suffering humiliation and loss of inner spirit. A very descriptive and in-depth comparison has been drawn between the traditional and new-age fairy tales; the characteristics of the male and female have been reversed by inverting their roles. Numerous examples from famous fairy and folk tales have been given by the author to prove her point. The first three chapters have seriously examined how the fairy tales had affected the children’s psyche for centuries, by shaping their minds on how a man and woman are supposed to behave; what role do they have in their societies and what qualities they must possess to stay a man and woman. The author has also dedicated a significant number of pages to discuss the feminist criticism of the Grimm tales after the 1960s. The contrast between the role of the prince to that of the princess in the traditional fairy and folk tales has been done efficiently by the author. The prince always gets the royal responsibilities while the princess has no such power and is limited to a titular position. In a broader context, the author is suggesting that these fairy tales have always shown the men stronger than the women, and a smart character whose duty is to look after his wife and feed his family. Several instances have been given from the popular fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to show how the heroines have been always portrayed as being submissive and completely dependent on a male figure i.e. the prince to save them and their only hope of entering a real world and lead their lives happily ever after. The fairy tales have implicitly suggested that a man is always required to fulfil the needs of a woman and give her the life she has always dreamt of, which would have never been possible without the presence of a male figure in her life. The book also mentions how gender stereotyping is more explicit in the stories meant for the middle classes and higher classes when compared to those closer to the folk origins. Another noteworthy thing in this book is the author’s assessment of computer games such as Sims and Sims 2 and their role in gender stereotyping.
By the time a reader will be finished reading this book, the author would have successfully used her words to present her case. The title of the book is also appropriate which would be understood as the chapters develop. The author has used the pages to show how the beauty (the female) which lacked any real strength and choice in the traditional fairy and folk tales has woken up with the rewriting and retelling of those tales and now possesses the human qualities which earlier only a man could possess.
It should be mentioned here that this book would definitely prove to be an important contribution to the genre of feminist literature, cultural studies and children’s literature. The author’s style is lucid, and the points made by her are straightforward which should prove helpful for the understanding of the text. The book is informative and factual but there are instances when the tone tends to be didactic. The length of the book could have been more as the chapters seem to be short and more pages could have been dedicated to elucidating the relevant issues further. This book is definitely recommended to everyone and would surely give the reader a better understanding of the gender stereotyping done by the traditional fairy and folk tales.
About the Author:
Full name of the author: SREETANWI CHAKRABORTY
Sreetanwi Chakraborty (b. 8th June, 1985) is an Assistant Professor in Amity Institute of English Studies and Research, Amity University Kolkata. She was a former lecturer of English at Salesian College, Siliguri and Sonada. After completing her graduation from Presidency College Kolkata, and her Post-Graduation from Calcutta University, she achieved the First class First position for her M. Phil thesis focusing on a Feminist interpretation of fairy tales, from Rabindra Bharati University, Calcutta. At present she is pursuing her PhD. Apart from academic articles, her Bengali and English creative writings have been published in Anandabazar Patrika, Dana, Jijivisha, Kourob, Kavya Bharati, Aswamegh, the Bombay Literary Review, Langlit, Book Terminus, Darjeeling Times, Darjeeling Chronicle, Ekdin newspaper, Taj Mahal Review, Aswamegh journal, Monthly Kavitapatra, Asian Cha, Muse India and many more. She is the Editor of Litinfinite Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Her areas of interest include gender studies, Indian English poetry, Diaspora studies and Indian fiction. She has found her own drama group Natyokolpo in 2018 in Kolkata. She is the recipient of the famous Charuchandra Ghosh Memorial Award from the University of Calcutta.
About the Reviewer:
Full Name: PIYUSH KUMAR BANERJEE
Piyush Kumar Banerjee (b. 24th Sep, 1996) works as an English teacher in St. Mary’s E.M. High School Palakollu, Andhra Pradesh. He completed his BA in English from Vinoba Bhave University Hazaribagh in 2016 and MA in English literature from Amity University Kolkata in 2018. He is currently pursuing a Diploma in Creative Writing in English from IGNOU and also working as a freelance content writer. His research paper on medieval India has been published in Litinfinite Journal of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 2019 edition. He has been awarded the Azrieli scholarship for pursuing a Masters in Holocaust Studies from the University of Haifa, Israel.
Cover image: Photo by Veronica Vannini.