Beauty Beast Judgment and Superficiality in "Beauty Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Beauty Beast

Judgment and Superficiality in "Beauty and the Beast": Parsing a Fairytale from a Postmodern Perspective

It is the conceit of nearly every epoch to assume that certain ideas, perspectives, and frameworks are new or unique to the current time, and with postmodernism this has extended to the notion of purposefully and meaningfully fragmented texts. That is, many postmodernists view fragmentation and purposeful alienation from reality -- truly, a questioning of what constitutes reality -- as the quintessential and definitive postmodern element (Erb, 51). While it cannot be denied that the postmodern period and postmodern works frequently embrace and utilize such fragmentation, and while perhaps no era has used it to the extremes or with the prevalence as the postmodern era, it must also be acknowledged that concepts of alienation from truth and reality are not new to the period, though they were dealt with quite differently in earlier texts. The classic fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" provides an excellent example, as the "original" text by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont has been adapted into modern story and film versions that clearly display the changing perspectives while preserving much of the basis of the story. In all texts, the admonition that people should refrain from making superficial judgments is made quite clear, however Beaumont delivers this lesson on separating appearance from reality in a much more straightforward fashion.

Truth and Appearance in "Beauty and the Beast"

Comparing the general stories of Beaumont's texts and certain adaptations reveals the changing yet similar attitudes towards truth and appearance in "Beauty and the Beast" as it has been told and retold through the ages. For Beaumont the entire point of the story seems to be that things are not always as they seem, and the judgments of deeper reality should not be made from superficial observations. This can be seen from the very opening line of the story, in which the unnamed man that is Beauty's father is described as a "rich merchant" and a "man of sense" -- two things that very quickly turn out not to be the case, exactly (Beaumont, par. 1). In more modern texts, most notably the Disney animated film that has received a great deal of critical attention, the father is presented as rather hapless from the outset, and also as out of step with society and even reality to an extent (Craven, 125). Both show a sense of alienation that some have dubbed postmodern, but Beaumont's text is far more all-encompassing and direct -- it is the "point" of the work, where to try and distill any truly postmodern text down to a "point" is ostensibly an act of futility (Erb, 50). Beaumont also structures his story as a series of reversals, such that the situations are entirely changed for many characters multiple times, while later versions follow a more singular arc albeit from multiple and more complex perspectives. In this, too, there is a directness in Beaumont's commentary about appearances being both deceiving and highly temporal, while there are more ambiguous and more moralistic ends commentaries in modern adaptations.

It is not just in the minute details and overall structure of the text that the lessons of Beaumont's "Beauty and the Beast" -- or the differences of modern adaptations -- can be found. In many of the characters, from Beauty to her sisters to of course the Beast himself, there are continual lessons not to trust or rely upon appearances. It might seem unusual to apply this conclusion to Beauty herself, but in reality she is one of the most surprising of characters when closely examined. Meek, submissive, and forgiving almost to a fault, Beauty is hardly of the type expected to show physical courage -- a readiness to endure suffering and a willingness to sacrifice, of course, but true active entrance into danger would seem out character. She…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Beaumont, Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de. "Beauty and the Beast." Accessed 2 May 2012.

Craven, Allison. Beauty and the Belles: Discourses of Feminism and Femininity in Disneyland. European Journal of Women's Studies 9(2) (2002): 123-42.

Davidheiser, James C. Fairy Tales and Foreign Languages: Ever the Twain Shall Meet. Foreign Language Annals 40(2) (2007): 215-25.

Erb, Cynthia. Another World or the World of an Other? The Space of Romance in Recent Versions of "Beauty and the Beast." Cinema Journal 34(4) (1995): 50-70.

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