The Tale of Two Characters: Why do we Encourage Ariel?

This isn’t the first time we have encountered a protagonist who has fallen in love. In fact, the story of Ariel is quite similar to what we saw in Sea Storyand The Mistake. Specifically, in the mistake, we see the protagonist make a series of terrible decisions, which inevitably wind up with his death. Similarly, Ariel chases love, and nearly pays a grave consequence, as she sells herself to the Devil. Yet, we as viewers still continue to encourage and root for Ariel. Why? ThroughoutThe Mistake, readers condemn the actions of the protagonist, even though they are similar to those of Ariel. Therefore, my question is: How do the creators of The Little Mermaidencourage viewers to support Ariel? I will argue that it has a lot to do with tone and word choice.

Through displaying Ariel as almost a goddess, the creators of The Little Mermaid guide readers to support the actions of Ariel, yet we were quick to condemn the man in The Mistakefor very similar actions. For example, in The Mistake, the protagonist states, “She only put a river between us. Does that mean I should go in search of her? That she is waiting for me? That she left, not to lose me but allow me to find her?” (Kohan 2). As I said, we as readers were quick to call out this stupidity. This is because of the tone that the author uses. When reading this, there is a very uneasy, unsure tone, coupled with the use of many questions. By choosing a tone like this, Kohan shows that this decision may end up hurting the protagonist, which is why readers have this reaction. This is very contrary to the strategies used by the writers and producers of The Little Mermaid. This is shown when Ariel sings “When’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love. Love to explore that shore above? Out of the sea. Wish I could bepart of that world” (The Little Mermaid). Here, viewers are encouraged to, and do support Ariel. This is because a positive, uplifting tone is used. If the tone had been similar to that of The Mistake, readers may be thinking the complete opposite. Although there are many other strategies used, I think the effective choice of tone allowed the creators of The Little Mermaid to captivate the audience.

4 thoughts on “The Tale of Two Characters: Why do we Encourage Ariel?

  1. Although you claim that readers condemn the actions of the narrator in “The Mistake” yet praise the actions of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, I do not feel the same way. In fact, I believe the narrator and Ariel act the same way in terms of their search for love because they both exhibit despair while they attempt to reach their lover.

    In “The Mistake” by Martín Kohan, the narrator seems to be full of desperation for love and willing to do anything to reunite with his or her lost lover, even if that means walking about ten hours to Uruguay. On this journey to Uruguay, the narrator seems to express his or her despair by asking several questions: “What’s the point of running? There isn’t one, and yet I run. What’s the point of shouting? There isn’t one, and yet I shout” (Kohan, 4). By utilizing the style of repeating questions, Kohan essentially highlights the despair that the narrator is feeling during the search of his or her lover because the questions are meaningless. Kohan also utilizes in asyndeton throughout the story in order to portray despair further. For example, in the last sentence of the short story the narrator says, “But so remote, so vague, so uncertain, so tantalising, that as it comes into view I also perceive another truth: I won’t be able to reach it” (Kohan, 4). Asyndeton is displayed at the point in which the narrator does not add the word “and” between the descriptions of the horizon. As a result, the reader is left feeling full of despair as there is no sense of togetherness. However, while I read the story, I did not find the narrator to exhibit “stupidity” at any point. Rather, the narrator’s actions highlight a desperation for love.

    Similarly, in The Little Mermaid directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, Ariel exhibits her desperation for love in a similar manner. Although Ariel is initially separated from her lover and there appears to be no way of being reunited with him, she does not allow that to stop her from ultimately reaching him and falling in love with him. For example, the viewers see desperation at the point in the movie when Ariel signs the contract with Ursula to be made human for three days in exchange for her voice. This shows that Ariel will essentially do anything to reach Eric, even if that means being unable to speak again. In this desperate action, Ariel essentially disobeys her father and her friends as she has been told by them to avoid Ursula at all costs, as she is an evil monster. Furthermore, Sebastian expresses his acknowledgement that Ariel is desperate: “You are hopeless child. You know that? Completely hopeless” (00:56:14-00:56:28). This shows that even her friends recognize her despair and do not treat her as if she is perfect.

    Thus, I would say that Ariel in The Little Mermaid is not portrayed in a contrasting light than the narrator of “The Mistake.” Rather, the two protagonists are similar in their desperation for love because they both perform actions that may not end up benefiting them.

  2. I believe you make an interesting point. Why should we be encouraging Ariel to make these horrible decisions? The question is do the creators have an effect on this? As shown in “The Little Mermaid”, Ariel is a fictional character, one of many Disney princesses. I think we all know how most Disney creations go— a common girl finds a prince and they live happily ever after. The overall tone is cheery and full of colorful music that displays the girl’s aspirations to find love. As viewers, we are equipped to “root” for the couple and put the people that get in the way of this at fault. We tend to overlook the flaws in these characters like when you say that Ariel is “selling her soul to the devil.” What aids in this is the fact that this scene is coupled with a musical number. This adds to the “uplifting” tone of the movie you have mentioned. I have to concur that this tone does encourage a viewer to want happiness for Ariel no matter what she has to do even if it is immoral.

    While I do agree the tone of “The Mistake” is different than that of “The Little Mermaid”, I don’t believe the Michael Kohan intended to “condemn the actions of the protagonist”. The tone is definitely more somber and melancholy than “The Little Mermaid”, but I feel that within this there is hope that is found. For example, when the riverbed drains Kohan describes it with words including “a true path,” “a signal,” and “an invitation,” (Kohan, 3). This hope obviously becomes false as one can see that this scenario did not work out for our narrator, but I can’t say that personally I wasn’t rooting for the narrator the whole time. Love blinded him to set out on task that, yes, if we look back on it wasn’t the most thought out. However, I don’t believe Kohan wanted to make the narrator’s dreams to look moronic in any way. Yes, this piece was full of questions, but this may be just emphasizing the narrator’s doubts instead of Kohan intending to make the narrator’s actions seem foolish. I think the information you have on Ariel is supported, but maybe try to focus on your initial question, “Why do we encourage Ariel?” and the movie of “The Little Mermaid” to find other parallels that reinforce your claim. You can bring up the examples of Ariel clearly disobeying her father and not listening to Sebastian, the two moral people in her life. Then, you can show how Disney and this movie’s creators distract viewers from seeing this with all of the musical numbers. When you add “The Mistake” to the discussion, it seems to blur the initial question about Ariel and make a reader question what you were asking in the first place.

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