Since there are so many specific things I’d like to discuss about Cinder, I thought I’d do a new feature called the “Reader Experience/Book Discussion” here on the blog. I will label these as the name of the series/book with Experience tagged on the end. If you have not read the books then I would not recommend reading the posts as they will contain spoilers. Consider that your SPOILER ALERT and proceed with caution.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is more than just a fairy tale retelling. Meyer uses this futuristic take on the Cinderella story to bring to light some controversial social issues like abuse of power/corruption of individuals in roles of authority, and racism/discrimination. There is also the predominant question of what it means to be human, that is threaded throughout the story.
The topic of abuse of power/corruption of individuals in authority roles is a crucial discussion point given the tensions going on in the political world right now, especially in the U.S. Some examples of this can be found in characters like Adri, Dr. Erland, and Queen Levana. Adri, Cinder’s legal guardian, is cruel and abusive (both physically and verbally) towards Cinder. Adri consistently tells Cinder that she is useless and unwanted. Adri goes as far as escalating the abuse to a physical level when she hits Cinder. As hateful as Adri is, Dr. Erland’s disregard for life in pursuit of his own personal agenda is worse. Dr. Erland establishes the Cyborg Draft program with the lie of wanting to find a cure for the plague. Many cyborgs died as a result of his experiments and Dr. Erland shows no indication of remorse for the lives lost in his labs. Then there is Queen Levana, the Lunar villainess. Levana is determined to rule earth just as she rules Luna and she will do everything in her power to get what she wants. She excels at manipulation and uses her powers on the citizens of New Beijing to instill fear. She plants a spy in the form of an ambassador to keep track of Prince Kai. Levana also threatens to go to war with Prince Kai if he does not agree to marry her. It is safe to say that words/terms like ethical and moral principles are not in Levana’s vocabulary.
As important as the discussion of corruption is given the social climate we live in today, Meyer takes things further by emphasizing racism and discrimination over and over again. The individuals that are subject to racism and discrimination in New Beijing are the Lunars and Cyborgs. Lunars are discriminated against because they are a different race. They are feared because of their differences from the people on earth (i.e. they have powers). Fearing a group of people because they are different. Sound familiar? We see that in the modern world with how people are discriminated against due to religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. The cyborgs are a mix between human and machine. The attitude toward cyborgs is that because they have these mechanical implants they are not entirely human. Therefore, they are second class citizens and should have less rights. This attitude is similar to how society treated slaves in early colonial times. Slaves were treated as property and did not have equal rights. This is a direct parallel to how Cinder is treated. She has no rights even to her own body parts. Every single part of her belongs to her legal guardian. She has no access to her income, she can even be sold into the Cyborg Draft program to become a test subject against her own will. Let’s take it this second-class citizen thing a bit further. For instance, take Dr. Erland’s complete disregard for the cyborg lives that were lost in his experiments. The society in New Beijing overall accepts this and there is no outcry from the people to stop this inhumane indifference to the loss of life. Why you ask? Because, they do not see cyborgs as equals. There is no unity between the citizens of New Beijing and the cyborgs that live within their society. No unity. Think about that and think about the social climate we live in today here in the U.S. Scary right?
So…all that said let’s talk about the overall theme/question presented in this story. What does it mean to be human? How do you define it? According to the dictionary the definition of human is “susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature” or “having human form or attributes.” Does this not mean that cyborgs are in fact human? They have human form and/or attributes do they not? Let’s take Cinder for example, does she not express the sympathies and frailties of human nature? She has feelings and thinks for herself. She has a human form. Seems to me that she is human by definition. Wouldn’t you agree? Yet, in the society of New Beijing she is treated as less. They liken her to a robot and she is treated as such, but how is she any different than say a soldier that was injured in the line of duty and has to have a prosthetic leg. At what point does a person lose their humanity because they have artificial limbs? There’s definitely some food for thought there.
Cinder obviously left me with many deeper thoughts after reading it than I was prepared for by a Cinderella retelling. I think to just do a surface read of this novel is an injustice. There are so many pertinent topics that Meyer touches on that given our current social climate are incredibly important discussion points. After my initial reading I searched through the internets and tried to find discussions or reviews of the book that highlighted these points. Sadly the majority of the reviews I read of Cinder were all about how dreamy Kai was and how much of a bad ass Cinder turned out to be in the end. I still don’t get the appeal of Kai, but if you want to read my thoughts on that you can check out my Cinder book review.
So let’s discuss. What thoughts do you have on the topics/themes that are found in Cinder? Do you agree/disagree? I’m dying to talk about this! Okay not really dying but you know what I mean. Let’s chat in the comments section.
Stay book nerdy & Happy reading!