Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 543
The first stanza makes a number of statements that associate women's value with their purity and their beauty. The speaker says,
No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
In other words, then, virgins are beautiful, in part, because they are young and pure. The word choice suggests that everyone can agree on this—no matter what kind of life one leads or who one is, we all know that virgins are superior—with their fragile cheeks like delicate paper, their limbs like Limoges china (a very expensive brand), lips like expensive red wine from romantic and far-away places, and blue eyes like a doll's. These virgins are clean and new and so valuable for their virginity and their beauty (as opposed to their experience, their wisdom, their creativity, etc.).
Snow White's stepmother, the queen, is obsessed with her own looks, though she is "eaten, of course, by age."
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.
She has, evidently, internalized the idea that her beauty is her most important quality -- and it seems clear that society preaches its value from the speaker's description of virgins -- and it is now the only thing that gives her pride in herself. However, because of the fact that external beauty is said to fade with age, such pride is like a poison because it will, ultimately, harm her. In fact, it has already: it has reduced her self-worth and made it dependent on something she cannot retain.
Snow White, only thirteen years old, is sexualized by her surroundings, turned into an object of desire for predatory creatures:
Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out...
(The entire section contains 543 words.)
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