The Cinderella Waltz of Ann Beattie examines a divorce in a relationship between two people, one of whom has moved on with his homosexual partner and Louise. Louise is nine years old but seems older than most other children. The Cinderella Waltz takes on a new meaning when psychoanalytical criticism is applied to it.
The Cinderella Waltz characters are in a unique situation. This is due to their relationships with the narrator Milo (the ex-husband), Bradley, the ex-husband/lover of her ex, and Louise. It is normal for people to dislike it when their partner leaves them with another lover, but not with the Narrator. Milo chose Louise as his daughter’s father, which was understandable. But the narrator never took that away from him. The narrator could be doing it to please Louise. She may also still love Milo and is looking for the good in her ex-boyfriend. It could be because she is a mother and doesn’t want Louise growing up without her father.
The narrator, blinded by her love for Milo and their marriage, pretended that everything was fine. She let it drag on inexplicably until their divorce. Her decision to ignore it was more harmful than helpful, because she used this as a way to avoid the painful truth: her husband loved another man. She could have argued against the divorce, and kept Milo with her, but this sacrificial form of love shows the reader how deeply and truly the narrator loved both Milo, and Louise. We see the narrator’s love in two forms: motherly and sacrificial.
Beattie repeatedly describes Milo’s character as “perfectionist”, and implies that Milo is obsessed with propriety. He’s always concerned about conforming to social norms, which is ironic because his relationship with Bradley, is considered inappropriate by society. Milo doesn’t want his relationship with Bradley to be perceived as “abnormal”, so he is obsessed with being proper in all aspects of his life. Milo’s perfectionist nature can make him appear abrasive. He refuses even to look for faults in himself. Milo accuses Bradley, who lost his employment, of “doing this deliberately.”
Bradley, on contrast, seems the exact opposite to Milo. Bradley is a considerate person, unlike Milo who seems to have no regard for others and only blames them when they make mistakes. He was not proud of “winning” Milo, but he did apologize and be gentle. He even offered the opportunity for them to speak to each other, although it was wasted. Bradley, like the narrator is equally selfless. He was willing to sacrifice his life to take Milo to California, even though it wasn’t necessary.
Louise is a very interesting character. She’s nine years old and seems to be “wise”. She is what binds her family together, which leads the narrator to have a close relationship with her ex’s lover. The narrator does not know if Louise is aware of the relationship between her father and his lover, but readers can deduce that Louise is more perceptive. Louise, who is very responsible and takes on many household duties and projects, is a child of great maturity. Beattie says Louise sometimes “sounds just like Milo”, insinuating a child’s ability, if exposed to the right circumstances, to adopt their parents’ mannerisms and behaviors. Louise may seem “adult” but she’s still a kid. She might not be able to understand some situations yet. For example, Milo going to California is a decision that Louise didn’t fully comprehend.
Ann Beattie has created four real-life characters with real problems. They are solved, or not resolved, in a completely real way. She captured the real problems faced by many married couple, especially divorce, in an engaging way. The Cinderella Waltz ended with the narrator asking “if Milo and Bradley haven’t played house too — pretending that we were adults.” This is a line that many of the book’s readers can relate to, as they wish to return to the days of simpler times, when the world was more fun and exciting. But, in order to do this, they act like children and ignore their problems, just as the adults did in the story. This story shows us two kinds of love, namely familial love and sacrificed love.