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Culture Redefined: A Postmodern Study Of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder

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Literature is always considered as a faithful representation of the society. In Wordsworthian terms Literature can be sorted as a way of “man speaking to men”, with every reader it prompts out various layers of interpretation. It can be quite natural for a writer to incorporate the morals and cultural values present in his social milieu and transcend it through his works. But explicating and experimenting with a futuristic society is indeed a herculean task. And this curiosity has given rise to the genre Fantasy fiction – a world where earthens, cyborgs, androids, and animated creatures all coexist.

The American writer, Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles is much concerned with the cyborgs. They are persons who can do things beyond normal human limitations due to the mechanical elements built into their body. The collection comprises five novels, which entail a new take on old fairy tales, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White. The Lunar Chronicles begins with the novel Cinder followed by Scarlet, Cress, Fairest: Levena’s Story, and the epic conclusion, Winter. These futuristic retellings of the old fairy tales focus on a young teenager Cinder, a cyborg raising to power and defeating the evil Queen Levena. The postmodern aspects of literature and cybernetics have given rise to science fictions.

In Postmodern aspect, Science and Technology can be considered to emerge as a vital component in shaping culture itself. Science may or may not have been the study of nature, but it now became a culture to be studied like any other. Suddenly, from being a practice and a body of unimpeachable fact inaccessible to study by the social sciences or by cultural criticism, science, first became a socialized, ideological phenomenon susceptible to historical and sociological scrutiny and secondly, a ‘text’ composed of representation of discourses that themselves construct dominant images and concepts of humans, animals and machines.

Donna J. Haraway, an American postmodernist, views “science-as-mythology”. The fabrication of scientific discourses imbibes the components of its real situation and that science fiction formed a core resource for its expansion. Iain Hamilton Grant’s in his article titled, “Postmodernism and Science and Technology” states that Haraway produces “a ‘hybrid’, cybernetic mythology where ‘nature’ is a trickster, a wily coyote, and where women and machines fuse”.

In the realm of science-fiction fandom a cyborg cannot be merely reduced to images, however science and technology are increasingly augmenting naturally occurring non-humans with artificial tones. The scientific discourses are being narrated in a natural way and science has become part of culture. Haraway therefore combines the hybrid ‘nature-culture’ of the scientifically, technologically, and critically sophisticated world, and the rise of non-human beings within it.

The focus of study of this research paper lies over Cinder, the first novel of the series The Lunar Chronicles. Cinder is a retelling of the old fairy tale Cinderella. William J. Long writes in his English Literature: Its History and its Significance for the Life of the English Speaking World that “behind every book is a man ; behind the man is the race ; and behind the race are the natural and social environments whose influence is unconsciously reflected”. The above words connote that the culture of the society in which the art is created is imbibed in it. Though there are various versions for this folk tale mostly they all represent Cinderella as an innocent girl who is mistreated by her evil stepmother and step-sisters but goes on to marry the prince. Marissa Meyer’s version of Cinderella takes place in a highly sophisticated cyborg world, told from a sci-fi perspective in a unique way.

Cinder is a beautiful girl with a troubled past. Her robotic adjustments make her a cyborg. As the novel travels, she learns about her history. She is really a Lunar queen whose identity has been hidden for years. Being an ordinary girl she learns how to deal with her fears, and leave those who loves in order to save her Emperor and her planet from evil Queen Levana. This paper analyses a few instances that show the similarity of both the versions of the story and how Haraway’s concept of ‘hybrid’ brings out changes in the narration as an evidence that transition in culture brings out transition in narration.

As per the old folk tale, Cinderella is a little girl whose mother is dead and her father goes for a remarriage. The step-mother and her daughters highly ill-treat Cinderella and abuse her innocent nature. When the king gives a clarion call for a ball to be held in the royal court, the step-sisters of Cinderella are super excited as this offer calls for a chance to marry the prince and become the princess of the royal court. When Cinderella expresses her desire to attend the ball, she is humiliated by her step-mother and who in turn asks her to beautifully dress up her two daughters and make them look as princess. Cinderella plans to wear her mother’s wedding gown and leave for the ball but then she finds it to be worn out. As she sits in distress a fairy mother appears and makes her solely beautiful.

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