Author Chai, Tze How
Title Cinderella: Esther's adopted identity in Bleak House.
Institute Academic Exercise (B.A. Hons.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2000
Supervisor Leng, Andrew Robert
Call no. PR4556 Cha

The Cinderella story is a favourite tale of romance and reward. However, it touches on a more important aspect -- identity. This thesis seeks to examine the identity crisis which plagues a Victorian Cinderella, Esther Summerson. I will begin the thesis by showing how illegitimacy affects the heroine's sense of identity, and how adoption by a 'fairy godfather' helps her on to the road of rehabilitation. I will then discuss how she seeks to construct an identity by forming endearing relationships with her surrogate family and with the children she in turn 'adopts', and how she, through this and a life of bustling activity, tries to find relief from her own lack. I will also explain how she instead gets an identity constructed for her and imposed upon her by her surrogate family.

Next, I will trace the relationship she shares with her estranged mother, and demonstrate how the narration and presentation of Bleak House illustrates Esther's damaged psyche. The proposals she receives, how she responds to them, and her marriage to her 'prince' will be examined in detail in the final chapter of this thesis. I will use a selection from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen as a source of comparison between Esther Summerson and Fanny Price, and attempt to draw a conclusion about how a Cinderella's identity will always be one of adoption.

I rely heavily on a close examination of the text, with limited references to critics. The emphasis is also on Bleak House and Esther Summerson, rather than on Mansfield Park and Fanny Price.