The Subversion of Gender Stereotypes in Donald Barthelme’s Snow White

Mashael H. Aljadaani, Laila M. Al-Sharqi


Donald Barthelme’s Snow White redefines gender roles in the 20th century. Barthelme retells the original fairy tale, subverting its presentation of stereotypical gender roles to depict postmodern ideologies, particularly feminism. The male voice and its controlling power, embodied within the original narrative, becomes the lost, weak, and subordinate side of his story. The female voice, repressed by social and cultural principles, is reshaped to represent the free, powerful, and dominant figure in his narrative. This novel’s presentation of Snow White’s characters reflects feminist battles, such as the fight for gender equality and women’s freedom from patriarchal restrictions or sexual objectification. Adopting a feminist perspective, this study investigates Barthelme’s demythologizing approach in Snow White to present his new identification of gender roles. Specifically, this study examines the novel as a subversive reworking of Grimm’s Snow White [the original fairy tale] by analyzing Barthelme’s reframing of Snow White, the seven dwarfs, and Prince Paul. The findings of the study will show how Barthelme’s text offers a feminist critique of patriarchal dominance to the original Grimm’s fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Through a close reading of the text, this study also seeks to highlight the novel’s subversive representation of socially constructed stereotypical male and female roles in the fairy tale to challenge the long-standing gender ideologies conceived by the patriarchal society.


Donald Barthelme, Snow White, Postmodern Literature, Feminism, Gender Roles

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