Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Short reflection on the "The Little Duckling"

I had chosen to retell Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling". The main reason would be that I felt Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" was extremely unrealistic. In fact, the plot and theme in the story are in direct contrast with what I personally believe.

The plot in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" mainly consisted of different creatures giving the young ugly duckling a hard time while it grew up. This was unreal to me. Even though bullying does occur frequently, it is unlikely that one's own family would display such resentment towards their own kin simply because they were ugly. Almost every other creature the ugly duckling encountered had displayed disapproval simply because it was ugly. This is often not true in real life. Most people do not openly display their disapproval simply because of someone else's appearance, even if they might feel that way internally.

I feel the theme of Hans Christian Andersen's version of the "The Ugly Duckling" was about overcoming one's own flaws through endurance. The story featured a young ugly duckling who grew up into a beautiful swan after much suffering. Personally, I think this rarely ever happens in real life. If a person is truly born ugly, then chances are that person would grow up into an ugly person. Simply enduring the pain of growing up will change nothing. If a person dislikes their own appearance, they should do something about it. The ugly duckling did nothing about its own flaws other than to wallow in self-pity but became a swan in the end. I disagree with the theme because of the fact that the ugly duckling did not work for its own happiness. This simply does not happen in real life.

These two reasons are why I had chosen to retell the Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling". I have significantly altered the story to reflect how I feel and what I think would have really happened. I will explain in detail each aspect of my story and why I had made those choices.

The theme of my story reflects my feelings towards lying. I had decided to use vanity as a medium because I think it is the most common thing people would lie about. In my version of "The Ugly Duckling", the duckling did not have a happy ending due to her obsession with gaining approval on her appearance. Her obsession was a result of the lies that were fed to her. The duckling was actually in self-denial, she knew she was not good looking but because of the repetition of lies that were fed to her, she had wanted to believe them and started to doubt herself. Hence, she felt the need to constantly gain approval on her own appearance. What I wanted to tell people through my story was that lying could have unforeseen consequences so it would be better to think about it carefully first. Sometimes telling the harsh truth is better than lying. I also wanted to show that even well-intentioned minor lies can still cause unwanted situations. Had the duckling not been lied to, she would have understood her flaws and not have died in the end.

I had changed the entire plot of the story in order to better reflect what I feel would really happen. Instead of the general disapproval from the duckling's peers, I had reversed the situation and made such that everyone had lied to the duckling instead. The duck, being constantly lied to, started to believe the lies and then dangerous repercussions soon follow. This is what I believe would really happen. People do tend to lie in order to comfort their loved ones after all. I think the real problem is when people are fed too many lies, albeit with good intentions. In order to remain consistent in my story and with reality, I had removed the entire part where the duckling had travelled to other places of the world. There was no reason for the duckling to leave if it was loved and approved of by its social circle. The meeting with the swans was crucial too, as the swans represented an outside party. I wanted to make it clear that it is not just family members who lie to their loved ones, but also strangers. The meeting with the swans also served to fuel the duckling's delusions of grandiose which ultimately led to the duckling's demise.

The reason why I have adopted a first person point of view is because I wanted people to experience how it might feel like to be lied to. I wanted people to experience the uncertainty when being lied to. The little duckling had no idea if she was being lied to or not. She did not know if she was actually ugly or beautiful. I had intentionally left out any specific labels about the duckling’s appearance and left her actual appearance open to interpretation. This is why I had changed the title of the story to “The Little Duckling” instead of the “The Ugly Duckling”. The feelings of uncertainty and ambiguity were the feelings that I had wanted to capture. I also wanted to show how you feel about yourself can change through the things people tell you. This reason is also why I think lies should not be so spoken without much consideration.

One of the reasons why I had chosen Hans Christian Andersen's "The Ugly Duckling" was because of the use of animals. The reason why I wanted to use animals is because they transcend culture and time. I believe this problem is prevalent in almost every culture. I also believe that this problem have persisted through many eras. After all, it is common knowledge that people would often lie to each other in an attempt to comfort one another. I had chosen a duck as my main character among other animals because ducks are very ordinary. They are not particularly known for anything and are relatively low in the food chain. To me, ducks had represented being below average. I had also intentionally represented the duck as a young female. This is because I personally think that lying about appearance is more common in females than in males, especially when they are younger. I had chosen to use swans because of their appearance. Swans have always represented grace and beauty. The swans had represented the goal that the duckling wanted to reach. They were intended to objects of envy. In many environments, there is always an ideal person who people adore and wanted to imitate. Think of the good-looking, popular and smart student in school or the friendly employee of the year in a working environment. The swans had represented this group in the story. This led the little duckling to believe everything the swans have told it, even defying her mother. The point I wanted to make is that people often make poor judgments when they are receiving information from something they have idealized and thus, it is especially important that you are honest when you are in an influential position.

My choice of setting had represented a limited social circle. The fact that their home was a small pond had represented a confined space. I made this clear by explaining that the shore could be seen on all ends. I believe this applies in real life, as very often one does not get much opportunity to meet new people, especially if one is young. Most children go to the same places every day so whatever information they may receive from those places are the only information they know. The location of the swans was no coincidence too. They had represented neighboring friends who children normally go to play with. The last scene with the bridge had represented an unfamiliar and dangerous location. The little duckling had chosen to experiment with it and ended up dying.

I have used several motifs throughout the story. The swans were one of them. As I had mentioned before, the swans had symbolized a goal and an idealized object. I was careful not to mention any flaws about them in order to show how distorted the little duckling's perspective is. The little human children had represented unfamiliarity and a distorted fantasy. The duckling did not know anything about the little human children other than what little information the swan had provided her. I had ensured that the entire phrase "little human children" was written out each time they were mentioned because I wanted to show that the little duckling would not know about of other variations of humans there might be. The intention was to show that she knew little of the children. She had also pursued the goal of gaining food from the children despite what little she knew and hence it had represented a distorted fantasy.

I have explained why I have decided to retell my story in such a manner. I think it fully captures my beliefs about lying and other aspects of life. In essence, I think people should know that is important to work with what they have rather than be under the delusion of possessing something that they do not actually have.

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