People say that Ariel never learned a lesson in The Little Mermaid and that she never really was sorry for what she did. I kind of agreed with this until I watched The Little Mermaid last night, and I realized that she does actually learn a lesson.
When people like to defend Ariel, they tend to point to this line:
Daddy, I'm sorry! I - I - I didn't mean to. I didn't know –
However, those who say Ariel doesn’t learn anything say it is only one moment, and that she was really just sorry she got caught.
The weaker scene everyone remembers
However, no one pays attention to the scene after Eric starts to go after Ariel. Look at what happens here:
Ursula: Now! Do we have a deal? (Triton signs contract.) Ha! It's done then.
(Ariel is released and Triton is withered as Ursula laughs.)
Ariel: No . . . Oh, No!
Sebastian: Oh, your majesty . . .
Ariel: Daddy? . . .
Ursula: (Picks up crown.) At last, it's mine. Ho, Ho . . .
Ariel: You - You monster!
Ursula: Don't fool with me you little brat! Contract or no- AAAAHH! (She is hit
with a harpoon thrown by Eric.)
What this leaves out is that Ariel starts fighting after she calls Ursula a monster. This part of the scene shows that she is genuinely sorry for what happens to Triton. While this may not show her taking responsibility for it, we do see her learn her lesson. Before Eric came and they were fighting Ursula to protect each other, Ariel started fighting Ursula to avenge Triton. What happened to Triton truly angered and distressed Ariel, and when you watch the scene, you can see that Ariel says “No” after she is taken out of the- seaweed vortex- before Triton is turned into seaweed. Now, would Ariel have gotten anywhere before Eric got there? Probably not. But she still was fighting Ursula out of anger for what happened to her father. She fought Ursula before Eric ever turned up.
The stronger scene everyone forgets
Now ultimately, I will say that the movie should have done a better job of showing Ariel apologize and take responsibility for her mistakes. They should have added a scene where she went to Triton and apologized or even apologized publicly for the trouble she created before she goes back to the surface and is turned into a human. That could have been a Brave-like ending that I think would have been really powerful. However, Ariel did learn from her mistakes and was sorry for them, and she had still changed in the end when she said, “I love you, Daddy.”
I love you, Daddy