What are some of the archetypes in the poem "Snow White" by Andrea Hollander Budy? Are they used traditionally or nontraditionally?

In her poem "Snow White," Andrea Hollander Budy uses the archetype of a bored, dissatisfied housewife. She subverts the well-known character of Snow White by presenting her as simply another example of this traditional archetype. Budy's purpose seems to be to make us question our attitudes towards women.

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Andrea Hollander Budy’s poem “Snow White” takes on the archetype of the fairytale princess. The poet breaks from tradition by coupling the princess with a relatively unprepossessing dwarf instead of an explicitly handsome prince.

Additionally, Budy’s poem challenges the helplessness that’s often attributed to fairytale princesses. In her retelling, the princess is not a victim of circumstances beyond her control. She purposely goes “scavenging through wildflowers” and willingly eats the apple as a way to escape the “plainness” of her life.

However, the final lines of the poem seem to conform to certain archetypal representations of women. Budy’s poem plays into a strand of archetypal women who are traditionally depicted as frustrated, bored, and on the lookout for excitement.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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In Budy's poem, the eponymous Snow White is presented as a woman trapped in a mundane, domestic life that she is desperately unhappy with. She is the archetype of the bored housewife. This archetype is rooted in the traditional, limited roles that women were once expected to fulfill. Women were once expected to find contentment in their roles as mothers and wives. Their lives were confined to the domestic sphere. They were expected to cook, clean, and make the house a home for the husband. This seems to be the life that the character in the poem has fallen into and is deeply unhappy with.

The only way that the woman in the poem seems able to cope with the mundanity of her real life is to create a fantasy world to which she can escape. To this end, she imagines that her children are really seven characterful dwarves and that the footprints of her children in the snow are really the footprints of those "little men." And when she sees some "wild apples" in the forest, she imagines that perhaps somebody might try to give her a poisoned apple and that such an apple will put her into a deep, death-like sleep. In the original story of Snow White, it is the wicked stepmother who tries to poison Snow White. However, the imagined poisoner in the poem, in the woman's fantasy world, is a savior figure. The Snow White of the poem actually wants to be put into a deep sleep. She longs for a death-like state to take her from her real life.

This poem takes the traditional archetype of the bored housewife and applies it to the character of Snow White. Budy's purpose in doing so is perhaps to make us question our attitudes towards women. Budy perhaps wants the reader to think about how much progress we have really made, and what progress there is still to make, as regards our attitudes towards and expectations of women in the modern world.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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