In Anne Sexton’s poem, the symbols, the myth elements, and the role of archetypes are all, mostly, entwined.
The queen is an archetypal figure. She symbolizes the aging, vindictive woman that has appeared throughout Western culture. She is also a key part of the fairy-tale myth. Minus the queen’s jealousy, Snow White would not find herself in such a vulnerable predicament.
The prince, too, is an archetypal figure. He symbolizes the authoritative, masculine ideal that regularly manifests in the culture of the West. The prince also plays a central role in the fairy-tale myth. Without the prince, Snow White has no one to marry.
The poison apple is a third archetypal element. The notion of nefarious fruit dates back to Genesis, when Eve took a bite from a piece of fruit that was growing on the tree of knowledge. The apple is crucial to the fairy-tale myth because it’s what compels the presence of the prince.
The figure of the prince might be a good place to begin a feminist interpretation. In the poem, Sexton addresses several issues that are central to the diverse strands of feminism. She deals with sexuality, beauty standards, gendered violence, and marriage. In Sexton’s poem, the marriage to the prince doesn’t seem to bring the princess much excitement or joy.
A second way to interpret this poem is through Marxism. Consider how the poem draws attention to capitalism with its inclusion of Western goods and products, like the Ace bandage and Little Orphan Annie. A Marxist critique could be an apt way to think about how socioeconomic factors impact the narrative of Snow White.