Critical Interpretation of Hansel and Gretel
A story can be interpreted in many different ways deriving various meanings.
The main purpose of interpretation is to dig out the hidden elements, complications, meanings and finally to say what is story really about. We can interpret the folk-tale “Hansel and Gretel” from different angles such as Marxist’s point of view, Freud’s psychological point of view, feminist point of view and so on.
According to Marxist’s point of view, there is a class conflict between the aristocratic people and the working class. The witch in the story represents the entire feudal system and the children and their parents represent the poor working class: In the feudal system, the rich landlords exploit the poor peasants. They capture the whole production and the working class people have always scarcity of food·. I n the story, the witch has collected a lot of treasure and food. Though the wood cutter and his children are suffering from famine, the witch has the house made of bread and sugar. In Marxist’s point of view, the working class people always fight to fulfill their hunger and other basic needs. Similarly, in this story, the two children Hensel and Gretel fight with the witch and finally they murder her. The murder of the witch stands for the hatred and anger of the working class towards the aristocrats.
If we read the story from psychological point of view, we can dig out many hidden meanings. We find that the house of the witch, which is made of bread and sweets, is nothing but a mother. As the children suck the breasts of their mother, the children in this story feed on the house. On the other hand, the children eat the same house which gives shelter to them. Because of their greed, they have to face a great danger. This shows that the life of human beings is full of danger. When the children murder the witch, we understand the fact that we can overcome the dangerous situation if we act very carefully and wisely. The children gain a lot of treasure and return back. Their treasure is the reward for their hardships and pain. When they reach the river, they have to face another danger. The white duck comes for their help. They again use their reason (mind) by crossing the river one by one. When they cross the wide expanse of water, they become more mature. They feel free and happy. They become wise, bold, independent and rich. Though their parents have abandoned them, the children have now understood their compulsion. This shows that human beings can experience many things when they go out of their house. Suffering, hardships, dangers, etc make man bold, ‘experienced, mature and independent.
We can even interpret the story from feminist point of view. There are more female characters in the story than the male. The roles played by female characters are highly dominant. The step mother plays the main role to lead the children in the dense forest. However, they are in the lap of nature. The forest or the nature itself is the female character. When they reach the gingerbread house, the house itself is a mother who provides food for the children. The witch is also female character who wants to kill and eat the children. When the boy is imprisoned by the witch, the female character, tel saves him by killing the witch. Thus, the female roles are dominant and significant in the story.