Name of Book: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Publisher: Harper Trophy
Audience: Age 8 and up
Summary: Ella Enchanted tells the story of Ella who at birth is given the “gift” of obedience by the fairy, Lucinda. Ella explains that this “gift” is indeed a curse, because any order given Ella, she must obey. When she tries to disobey an order, she experiences breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, and other problems. Ella has several allies, but as the story continues and her mother dies, Ella is determined to find the fairy Lucinda and have Lucinda release her from the curse of obedience. Ella is sent off to finishing school by her father, where she is tyrannized by a girl named Hattie. After Ella’s father learns he has lost all of his money, he marries Dame Olga, who does have money. Ella’s step-mother, Mum Olga, her step-sister, Olive, and step-sister—the one and only, Hattie, all treat Ella very badly. Ella becomes a scullery maid in her new step-mother’s home. When three royal balls are held for the prince to select a bride, Ella decides to go and is magically transported to the palace. The conclusion of how Ella breaks the curse of obedience, and wins the prince as her husband is not to be missed!
Literary elements at work in the story: The story is written in the first person, which helps the reader understand and empathize with Ella. The reader is privy to Ella’s private thoughts and dreams. Ella also has a magical fairy book which tells her the private thoughts of many of the people she knows. The author employs many magical themes in the story including different groups of people and creatures who speak five different languages: Gnomic, Abdegi, Ogresse, Elfian, and Ayorthaian. Ella tries to learn as much as she can about each language because she realizes the connection that exists between relationships and languages.
(Genre/setting/characterization/plot/theme/point of view/style) The story is from the modern fantasy category. It is filled with a combination of fantasy, adventure, excitement, romance, and mystery. The characters in the story are primarily good, or primarily bad. Lucinda the fairy, aspires to change her behavior of being bad to being good. Lucinda is “taught” about this change by the “good” fairy, Mandy. Lucinda realizes her mistake in bestowing the gift of obedience to Ella, but she is not able to undo her mistake.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The issue of good and evil is addressed. The issue of good people being rewarded for their good behavior, is seriously questioned as we see Ella, believed to be good, being punished. The issue of overcoming evil with good is addressed when Ella outsmarts her attackers by her use of language and wit.
Theological conversation partners: Ella’s desire is to be able to make decisions for herself. She wants to be able to make choices. She rebels when she is forced into doing something that she is ordered to do. Many people in the book who find out about Ella’s curse of obedience, use this against her.
There are oppressed people in the world who face the same dilemma as Ella. Like Ella, they may be intimidated, ill treated, and abused. They know that they must comply with abusive laws and practices or be destroyed. Also, like Ella, they may rebel against their lack of rights and choices, and feel the same hopelessness that Ella feels at times in the book. The prevalence of human trafficking that continues to be a problem in the United States, and in other countries is an example of human enslavement which is intolerable.
There is the Old Testament account of Moses leading the people out of Egypt, and away from bondage by the Egyptians. Over and over again, history records stories of people who believe that they are entitled to dominate others, and remove the rights of others. Ella and her prince wish for peace among all the creatures of fairyland. They would support the quotation from Isaiah 2:4 which says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Faith Talk Questions:
1. What do you think about Ella’s treatment by Hattie?
2. Have you ever been bullied by another person?
3. Why do you think Olive treated Ella badly?
4. How does Ella “get even” when she is ordered around a lot?
5. Does the finishing school remind you of anything you had to do in your life?
6. What did you think of the fun loving prince who liked to slide down stair rails?
7. Lucinda tries to make amends for her “gift” to Ella. To what other character(s) does Lucinda make a gift?
8. Ella’s father solves his problem of poverty by marrying the rich Dame Olga. What do you think about his solution?
9. If you were writing this story, would you change any of the plot?
10. What important lessons about life do you think Ella might teach her children?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Chris Feno.
Ella Enchanted by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.