Criticism on the Ugly Ducking

“criticism on the ugly ducking”


First published in 1843 The Ugly Duckling is probably the most world-renowned of Andersen’s stories. The message of the story speaks to its readership on a personal level as there is generally a time in everyone’s lives where they feel misunderstood or under-valued. The story is morally didactic in that it prescribes the equal treatment of people, even if appearances differ; there are no two people the same and the sooner we can accept that the better. Andersen seems to be proposing that beauty comes from within and this is explicit in the story. Once we get to know people then we can look past the ugly exterior, in the case of this story, and see the beauty inside. Although the duckling’s outer appearance was very different it does not change the fact that it was still a duckling inside and so should be treated the same as all the others instead of a monster. The duckling was just longing to be loved and to fit in with all the rest. The story puts you in the duckling’s shoes and makes you really think about how you treat people.

This story has often been claimed to be strongly autobiographical as it mirrors Andersen’s ceaseless but ultimately successful, attempts to ascend from his proletariat roots to the Danish elite. In light of this a possible way of interpreting the story is as a critique of the judgemental aesthetically-concerned Danish bourgeoisie that repeatedly rejected the lower-class Andersen.One of Andersen’s most prominent contemporary critics was fellow Dane, Georg Brandes . Brandes published a major article on Andersen’s work in 1869 in which he branded the Ugly Duckling an over-sentimentalised piece of work unworthy of literary critical esteem. During his lifetime, despite his work being well-received abroad, Andersen had to contend with watching contemporaries, who are little-known today, receive much literary and public success. Paradoxically and not unlike the Ugly Duckling itself, Andersen was virtually passed over by the Danish and yet is now one of Denmark’s most renowned figures.

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