Cinder shares many major plot points with its predecessor “Cinderella”—particularly Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon, the 17th-century version of the folktale. Both center on a poor female protagonist with a wicked stepmother and stepsisters who goes to a ball and falls in love with a prince. However, there are crucial differences between the two stories: primarily, there is no figure comparable to the fairy godmother in the original tale, who makes Cinderella’s wishes come true by providing her with a dress, a carriage, and slippers that allow her to go to the ball. In Cinder, Cinder must do all of these things herself, and she is able to go to the ball not due to luck or magic, but instead because of her own ingenuity and because her kindness makes those around her want to help her. Thus, Meyer’s adaptations to the original tale suggest that hard work, resourcefulness and kindness are more important than luck in achieving one’s goals.
Cinder’s skill as a mechanic, coupled with her ability to scavenge for parts, are what enable her to get to the ball, rather than luck. When Cinder finds an old orange gasoline car that looks like a “rotting pumpkin” in a junkyard, and she decides to fix it up to make her escape from her cruel stepmother, Adri’s, house (though she eventually uses it to get to the ball instead). The description of the car as a pumpkin ties the car to the pumpkin in the folktale, which the Fairy Godmother transforms into a carriage for Cinderella. However, Cinder is the one who has to fix up the car, spending many nights secretly working on it so that it will run. This adaptation emphasizes that Cinder needs hard work to find success. Cinder is also resourceful: upon deciding to go to the ball to warn Prince Kai about a plot to kill him, she realizes that she must scrape together an outfit to get into the ball. She recovers the dress that belonged to her late stepsister Peony and steals a set of boots from her other stepsister Pearl in order to go. Rather than waiting for someone to provide her with clothes, Cinder finds a way to go to the ball herself, further stressing that resourcefulness is more important than luck.
Cinder is also able to go to the ball because of her kindness: Prince Kai grows friendly with Cinder over the book, and her kindness towards him prompts him to ask her to the ball. When Prince Kai hires Cinder to fix his android, Nainsi, she and Kai get to know each other as he visits her mechanic’s booth and she visits the palace. Noticing that Cinder always wears gloves (though he doesn’t know they are to hide her cyborg hand) Kai asks her to the ball and gives her a beautiful set of silk gloves in payment for her kindness. The gloves, too, become critical for Cinder to attend the ball, so that she isn’t forced to wear her dirty mechanic’s gloves and risks being turned away. In this way, her kindness and hard work for Kai is rewarded with yet another piece of the outfit she needs to attend the ball. When Cinder arrives at the ball, the guards notice that she is somewhat disheveled, particularly because Peony’s dress is quite wrinkled, and Cinder had to trek through the mud after crashing her car on the way to the ball. At first, the guards seem determined to turn Cinder away, until they realize that her name is on the list as a personal guest of Prince Kai. Again, only through her own kindness and perseverance—rather than any luck or magic—is Cinder able to get to the ball.
The changes between the original folktale and Cinder are perhaps best encapsulated by the parallel symbols of Cinderella’s slipper and Cinder’s foot. In “Cinderella,” the protagonist’s slipper represents luck—but in Cinder, the protagonist’s prosthetic foot represents resourcefulness and hard work. As punishment for buying a brand-new, expensive prosthetic foot, Cinder’s stepmother Adri takes Cinder’s foot away from her. As a result, in order to go to the ball, Cinder must reattach her old prosthetic foot, which is extremely small and rusted. At the end of the ball, when Cinder tries to run away from Queen Levana’s wrath, this mechanical foot completely severs from her calf—analogous to Cinderella’s slipper being left behind in the folktale. But what these two symbols represent is completely different: for Cinderella, the slipper was evidence of her luck in receiving the Fairy Godmother’s help, allowing her to illustrate her true value and help the prince find her. But in Cinder, Cinder’s foot symbolizes her resourcefulness and perseverance in the face of difficult situations. In reinterpreting the plot points that enable Cinder to go to the ball to center on hard work, resourcefulness, and kindness, and by adapting the central symbol of “Cinderella” in turn, the novel emphasizes the importance of developing these qualities rather than relying on sheer luck or magic.
Resourcefulness, Kindness, and Perseverance ThemeTracker
Resourcefulness, Kindness, and Perseverance Quotes in Cinder
“I’m not sure I would label it a ‘survivor,’” said Iko, her sensor darkening with disgust. “It looks more like a rotting pumpkin.”
Cinder shut the hood with a bang, sending an impressive dust cloud over the android. “What was that about having a fantastic imagination? With some attention and a good cleaning, it could be restored to its former glory.”
Levana knew he had been searching for Princess Selene. She would kill him. She would take over the Commonwealth. She would wage war on…on the whole planet.
She grasped her head as the world spun around her.
She had to warn him. She couldn’t let him make the announcement.
She could send him a comm, but what were the chances he was checking them during the ball?
Cinder peered down at her drab clothes. Her empty ankle. Peony’s dress. The old foot that Iko had saved. The silk gloves. Her head bobbed before she knew what she was agreeing to, and she used the shelves to pull herself to standing. “I’ll go,” she muttered, “I’ll find him.”
On the fifth step, she heard the bolts snap. The wires tore loose, like tendons stretched to the max. She felt the loss of power at the base of her calf, sending a blinding warning signal up to her brain.
She fell, screaming, and tried to block her fall with her left hand. A shock of pain jolted up her shoulder and into her spine. Metal clattered against stone as she crashed down to the gravel pathway. […]
His eyes drunk her in—a gleam of metal fingers, the wires sparking at the end of her battered metal leg. His jaw fell, and he looked momentarily as if he might be sick.
If she didn’t try to stop Levana, what would happen to Kai? Though she tried to block out the question, it continued to plague her, echoing in her thoughts.
Maybe Dr. Erland was right. Maybe she had to run. Maybe she had to try.
She felt for the prosthetic limbs in her lap and wrapped her hands around them. Lifting her head, she looked up at the grate in the prison door. The guard had never closed it.
A tingle passed down her spine. A strange new electricity was thrumming beneath her skin, telling her she wasn’t just a cyborg anymore. She was Lunar now. She could make people see things that weren’t there. Feel things they shouldn’t feel. Do things they didn’t mean to do.