Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The central theme of this story is indicated by the Cinderella reference, which Ann Beattie uses as a contrast to her contemporary love story. Although Milo is the prince, promising fairy-tale happiness, his two previous partners have been rejected, each in his or her turn, as he moves on to someone else to play Cinderella to his Prince Charming. The ironic use of the Cinderella story points to the major themes of modern love, which does not promise a “happy ever after” but instead promises freedom from permanence or binding ties.

The use of the Cinderella story is perhaps the most prominent of the many ways in which Milo’s euphoric sense of romantic possibilities is undermined by the story’s disenchanted narrator, whose voice adds levels of skepticism and irony throughout the story, directed in the main at Milo, who must invest himself and everyone else with a magical glow and who will withdraw with icy fury when reality does not cooperate. Milo’s presentation of himself as a free, modern, self-fulfilled individual is here debunked as in fact a form of toxic narcissism. His seductive charm and constant changing of partners—his Cinderella waltz—is exposed as an evil that makes him a dangerous new variation of the traditional Prince Charming of the fairy tale. Underneath Milo’s perpetually youthful insouciance, Beattie suggests, is a sense of entitlement and a need for unlimited freedom that will leave in its wake a trail of damaged and...

(The entire section is 588 words.)