Griswold_Beauty_Beast_Analysis[1]

Griswold_Beauty_Beast_Analysis[1] - 639.. hon! 0:235. >=...

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An: 1 as 1:» 382" ‘ gig 5% some”: Homo. ~33 38“ any 9.3. 2182 men so: me, can can 2 E 5: men a. a $2 :3 5-3: ~85 Page" mung—mu nEBa—oannina@ DEERE magmas Fmo.vaa®=§na=b= ramming—.3505 nunn<u®ar=w€3rlmw983 Gina" cana©=r=2<5rnmnn9no§ Sancnnfiénnuuhea man—mine: 5.3 Ca. manna—v. 3.30333 :8 manna». $.35: an 9n 632552: on 0255» 585w 90 woo—n war—wag .355 Una—€32: 13mg «9. 9... vzvfirmaw Raina. woo—n in... 23 3.35qu: 5 Ono—ma Eur—yuan." r ECZHMU —Z O>Z>U> w 5mm omoam mmmm THE MEANINGS or “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” Beauty, it also describes the Beast and what is commendable in him (his kindness, gentleness, and friendliness). The lesson the tale teaches, then, is that amiability or “aflability” is commendable in a woman and desirable in a potential husband. In choosing Mrs. Affable as the narrator of her story, in a Very straightforward way, Beaumont makes her "Beauty and the Beast” the Story of a Governess. Since Beaumont was employed at the time as a. governess, we might say that “Beauty and the Beast” is ‘ doubly her story. But there is still a third way in which Beaumont’s tale might be seen as the Story of a Governess. One of the most curious facets of Beaumont’s tale concerns the issue of power: on the one hand, Beauty is subordinate and the Beast is dominant, compelling the Merchant to do his bidding and making Beauty his prisoner; on the other hand, Beauty is in charge, and the Beast tells her that her desires take precedence and that she can bid him to come or go as she wishes. This pOWer dynamic can be seen as an echo of the frame story and the working conditions of a governess. Mrs. Affable, after all, is an inferior, a servant and an employee from a lower social station than that of her aristocratic pupils; on the other hand, she is the governess and in this way the children’s superior, an adult and disci— plinarian. This dynamic, in other words, may provide a model for the vacillations of power in the relationship between Beauty and the Beast, and this is a third way Beaumont’s\t_ale might be seen-as the Story of a Governess. , ' But there is still a fourth way in which the story might be seen in this fashion, when we consider tradition. From Charlotte Bronte’s title character in jane Eyre to Julie Andrews’s role in “The Sound of Music,” the Story of a Governess has familiar features: there is a pronounced social gap between the classes of the two principal characters, but eventuallythe Marm marries the Master and the downstairs maid becomes the upstairs doyenne. In other words, Beaumont’s tale was not only written by a governess (Beaumont herself) and told by a governess (Mrs. Affable), it also echoes the familiar Story of a Governess in its contrast between the merchant’s daughter and her aristocratic host, in their eventual nuptials, and in her elevation from country servant to lady of the manor. In this way, Beauty finds in the Beast her own Mr. Rochester and Baron Von Trapp. 52 AMONG THE CRITICS Only after Beauty decides to leave her father’s house to be reunited with the Beast—that is, after she has resolved her oedipal ties with her father—does sex, which before was repugnant, become beautiful. —BRUNO BETTELHEIM, The Uses qf Enchantment (1976) The theme of this aristocratic tale involves "putting the bour- geoisie in their place.” —_]ACK ZIPES, Breaking the Magic Spell (1979) Beauty stands in need of the Beast, rather than vice versa.... He holds up a mirror to the force of nature within her, which she is invited to accept and allow to grow, [namely] her female erotic pleasures in matching and mastering a man who is dark and hairy, rough and wild. —-MARINA WARNER, From the Beast to the Blonde (1994) “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” PROVIDES A convenient way to exam- ,ine how meaning is discovered in, or imposed on, fairy tales. Professionals, scholars. and various kinds of specialists have explained the tale in dozens of ways. . Among these, we can detect three main trends. Psychological critics have focused attention on Beauty and suggested she has a “problem” (with sex). Socio—historical critics have seen the tale as a reactionary condemnation of social-climbing by the bourgeoisie or merchant class. Finally, feminist critics—while at first faulting the tale for advocating womanly sacrifice and submissiveness—havc come to endorse “Beauty and the Beast” for presenting a desuable exploration of feminine erotics. 53 THE MEANINGS or “BEAUTY AND rm: BEAST" PSYCHOLOGICAL READINGS Among the earliest interpreters of “Beauty and the Beast” were jungian critics Maria Von Franz and joseph Henderson.I Typically, the followers of Carl jung see the various characters in a tale as rep- resentations of different facets of a single individual’s personality. Problems arise, they suggest, when individuals reject a part or parts of their personality. The aim of Jungian therapy is for an individual to acknowledge and integrate all the parts of their personality into a harmonious whole, and this resolution is often symbolized in a tale by a marriage. A concept important to Jungians is the “anima” and the “animus.” jungians noticed that in men’s dreams what is forbidden, danger- ous, and erotic often comes in the form of a woman (an anima); in the case of women’s dreams, the forbidden, dangerous, and erotic often comes in the form of a male (an animus). In their interpreta- tion of “Beauty and the Beast," then,jungian critics see the Beast as Beauty’s animus—as a part of her personality that she has denied and excluded, a part that is animal-like and sexual. Jungians argue that Beauty’s task in the tale is to face reality rather than turn away from it, to acknowledge and integrate that part of her personality she regards as beastly and has rejected.2 Two things make this task diflicult, they suggest. First, Beauty is something of a Goody Two Shoes. Events early the story suggest that she has embraced an unreal and exaggerated life of virtue, and Beaumont certainly goes to great lengths to tell us of Beauty’s supernal goodness and her selflsacrificing ways. If she is to be saved, Beauty must venture forth from her antiseptic existence and make contact with the Beast. Moreover, this too good girl must fall: the all—too~virtuons Beauty must sin and betray the Beast and recognize that she has done so. Onlyin this way can she escape her Shirley-Temple-like life of saccharine goodness and dutiful self- denial. r joseph Henderson, “Beauty and the Beast," and Marie-Louise Von Franz, “The Process of Individuation," Man and his Symbols, ed. Carl G. jung (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1964) r37-4o and 193—95, respectively. 2 Von Franz 194. S4 THREE: AMONG THE CRITICS A more significant impediment to Beauty‘s coming to acknowl— edge and accept her animus is the incest taboo. Growing up with her father, Beauty has driven all thought of sexuality out of her mind. By means of the Beast, however, she comes into contact with the erotic and awakens to the possibility of love. In her prolonged contact with the Beast, her childhood sexual repression (originally maintained because of the incest taboo) must give way and be replaccd by trust and love. If these remarks fairly represent the jungians' view of the story, the Freudians are best represented by the ideas _of Bruno Bettelheim in his The Uses of Enchantment (1977).‘ With regard to “Beauty and the Beast,” Bettelheim generally follows the lead of the Jungians but differs slightly in identifying Beauty's problem as an oedipal one. A Freudian concept, the oedipal complex refers to a period in most children’s lives when they feel a rivalry with the same-sex parent and a special bond of affection with the opposite-sex parent. Interestingly enough, many of Bettelheim’s analyses of other fairy tales focus on the rivalry between the child and same-sex parent; numerous stories, he points out, feature antagonistic relationships between young women and mother figures like the witch or step- mother. But “Beauty and the Beast” focuses on the other side of the oedipal relationship, on the special bond of affection that exists between Beauty and her father. Indeed, we can only wonder how this tale might have been different had Beauty's mother (or her sur- rogate) been present. Freudians, we should add, see nothing necessarily sick or aber- rant about the oedipal complex; most children go through a period when they are a “momma's boy” or a “daddy's girl.” The oedipal complex only becomes a problem when someone gets frozen at this developmental stage and does not outgrow it. In fact, as Bettelheim suggests, when the oedipal period is successfully nego- tiated, love for a parent can be a prelude to the transfer of affection to someone outside the family: I Jacques Barchilon was probably the first to employ Freudian thinking in understanding the tale, and Bettelheim appears to have borrowed from him. Barchilon,"Beauty and the Beast: From Myth To Fairy Tale," Prydwanalysi: and the Psythoanalylir Review 46,4 (Winter 19 59): 19-29. 55 .2; 332—20... 02. .5020: >20 .3; 0030: 20 092. €0=I§0¢<= 23. 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Zipes suggests he is a figure for the aristocracy, “old money," a nobleman living in a castle. According to Zipes, the message of the story, then, is that the merchant class (in the face of their aristocratic betters) ought to be humble like Beauty and not put on airs like her sisters. Zipes's approach to Beaumont’s tale suggests how meaning can be found by pasitioning“Beauty and the Beast" within its historical context, particularly in terms (if the rise of the bourgeoisie. In that regard, we might follow his example but go a bit further in order to gather an even more comprehensive understanding of the story. One of the principal architects of the rise of the bourgeoisie was Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-83), the minister of Louis XIV. Faced with massive government debts and looking for advice, the king turned not to the members of his court or to the nobility, but to this professional civil servant, the son of a prosperous merchant family. Colbert thought the way to put France on a sound financial footing was to run the government as a business and put the mer- chant at center stage. Moreover, he was impressed by how the English and the Dutch had increased their wealth by becoming commercial nations with ships that sailed the world and engaged in trading enterprises. Colbert saw to it that France followed their examples. He encouraged the building of ships, the formation of private trading companies among groups of investors, and the extension of commerce to the East and West Indies as well as northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. At home, Colbert hated idlers and slackers—landlords, bureau- crats, nobles, clergymen, and others who wiled away their days with luxurious pastimes, who lived in the cities and depended upon the labors of others who worked on their distant estates. Convinced that every citizen should work and produce, Colbert developed a number of economic measures meant to frustrate the privileged and undermine their lives of ease. Under his mercantile system, productive merchants and manufacturers were rewarded, and wealth began to gradually shift to this merchant class and away fiom the privileged whose families for years had derived their income from others. In the decades following Colbert and his policies, the gradual erosion of the ancien régime left the nobility in a sorry state. While 60 THREE: AMONG THE CRITICS they might claim the grandeur of their titles and possibly the own- ership of vast estates, aristocrats were often at the brink of financial ruin and unable to pay taxes—especially because they were now required to do so in a new way, by using money and paying in the new currency. Moreover, they could not easily find a solution to their financial woes by engaging in activities like trade or manufac- turing since such commercial pursuits were often viewed as com~ mon and beneath members of the nobility. So, on the one hand, those who laid claim to titles like “Duke” or “Earl” seemed to be headed towards extinction. On the other hand, the bourgeoisie, the merchant class, was on the rise. To be sure, wealth fluctuated. Great fortunes were both made and lost as a result of inVestments in tobacco, mining, foundries, cotton mills, banks, maritime trade, and other activities. But boom or bust, the merchant class (as a whole) was gaining the upper hand. Of course, the nobility (on their way down) and the merchant class (on their way up) did occasionally find a meeting ground. Cash-poor, the nobility at least had the grandeur of their titles. Class-less, the bourgeoisie had money—even though it might have . been acquired in the sordid and common world of commerce, and even though aristocrats might look down their noses at them as nauveau tithe. Typically enough, a happy compromise was reached when, say, the wealthy owner of cotton mills arranged for his daughter to be married to a destitute nobleman. In this way, the aristocrat could pay his taxes and keep the family estate, while the merchant and his family gained a title and an entrance into high society. It may be immediately obvious how the historical circumstances described here reappear in the situation found in Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Beaumont sets her story in a world of merchants and nobility, of trading ships and fluctuating fortunes, of merchants' daughters with aspirations to upward mobility, and so forth. But what is perhaps more interesting is how Beaumont’s tale differs from, or reacts to, its times. Most obvious is the fact that the union between Beauty and the Beast is not presented as a marriage of convenience between a wealthy merchant’s daughter and an impoverished nobleman. Instead, we have the opposite. In Beaumont’s tale, the nobleman is not hurting for cash; it is the merchant’s family that is down on its luck. Moreover, the merchant 61 THE MEANINGS OF “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" and his family are considerably helped by the magnanimous Beast and his chests of gold, his largesse and sense ,of noblesse oblige. In fact, as a figure for the aristocrat, the Beast presents an appealing picture—landed and kind, generous and refined, and in every way noble. In other words, in the midst of changing times, Beaumont seems to offer a kind of backwards-looking endorsement of the nobility, a flattering and conservative portrait of the under: régime. But, besides honoring the aristocrat, we should also notice how ‘ Beaumont responds to changing times by offering a reactionary criticism of the new and rising merchant class. Beauty's sisters and their vulgar class aspirations are particularly singled out for disap- proval. Moreover, in her vision of the merchant’s slide from urban prosperity to rural poverty, Beaumont seems to go out of her way to emphasize that status is a precarious thing among the hour- geoisie because (unlike the landed gentry) social station is tied to money and wealth, and fortunes could and did fluctuate. Ultimately, Beaumont seems to suggest that the merchant class would be better if they were more like Beauty—that is to say, if they went back to the farm and became once again hardworking and uncomplaining peasants; in the evenings, she suggests, they can turn to improving books and music. When Beaumont’s tale is seen in its historical context, then, we can detect the author’s aristocratic airs, patronizing attitudes, and conservative views. Seen in this way, her tale is not so much a reflection of her era as it is a reaction to it? a‘kind of aristocratic backlash to changing times. Fammrsr READINGS The fortunes of the fairy tales among feminist critics may be divid— ed into two phases. A first generation of feminist critics con— demned the tales as reflections of a patriarchal culture and found abundant- evidence in them of the victimization of women.‘ 1 Cf. Marcia K. Lieberman’s "Some Day My Prince Will Come: Female Acculturation Through the Fairy Tale" and Karen E. Rowe's "Feminism and Fairy Tales" in Don‘t Bet on the Prime: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tile: in North Amerias and England, ed. jack Zipes (New York: Methuen, 1986) [85-200 and 209-26. respectively. See also Ruth B. Bottigheimer, Cn'mmis Bad Girls and Bold 62 THREE: AMONG THE CRlTlCS HOWever, a second generation of feminists—a loose collection of writers,jungian essayists, and critics—came to endorse them as female stories and saw in these “old wives’ tales” visions of feminine empowerment.‘ What has been the history of fairy tales in general has also been the history of “Beauty and the Beast” in particular. Those feminists who object to “Beauty and the Beast” see it as an admiring portrait of a self-sacrificial maiden and argue that Beaumont's. story conVeys the objectionable lesson that women should be submissive. Beauty puts others' interests before her own, especially her father’s interests, when she rejch suitors, resettles in the country in order to comfort the old man, and finally takes his place at the Beast's castle. When the family moves to the country, Beauty (like some uncomplaining Cinderella) represses her own feelings and remains upbeat, rising at four in the morning and doing the chores. In Beauty’s going to the Beast’s castle and in her agree- ing to marry him, these feminists also see the situation of women pledged to arranged marriages by their fathers; in that case, the mes- sage to young aristocratic girls in Beaumont’s story seems to be that they should acquiesce to arrangements that have been made for them. Moreover, the tale suggests that if her selected spouse should strike her as a beast, a young woman should know that a clever and well—meaning woman can change a brute into a companionable husband.2 In summary, as one critic suggests, when we consider the admirable heroine who gives her name to this tale, we are obliged to conclude that "the mark of beauty for a female is to be found in her submission, obedience, humility, industry, and patience.”3 I When the story is seen in this way,.first—generation feminists seempntirely correct and Beaumont emerges from their assess- ments as a matronly co-conspirator coaching young women to bow to traditional and patriarchal values. Other evidence, however, Boys: The Moral and Soa'al Vision of the Titles (New Haven. CT: Yale University Press, 1987). 1 Cf. Warner; Pinkola Estes; Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (New York: Penguin Books, r993); Maria Kolbenschlag, Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye (New York: Bantam Books, 198 r). 2 Cf. Warner 293. 3 Jack Zipes, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classiral Genre for Children and the Protess of Cim'lization (New York: Wildman Press, r983) 38, 40-41. 63 .V THE MEANINGS on “BEAUTY AND rm: BEAST" suggests that this is too simple an understanding. Indeed, it might be possible to construct a counter-argument and argue that Beaumont was an early feminist. “Beauty and the Beast" appeared in Beaumont’s book for young women, The Young Misses Magazine, and in the introduction to that work Beaumont presented strikingly radical and forward-looking views for her times. Against the commonly held opinion that only boys should be schooled, Beaumont declared her conviction that young women should be educated and encouraged to be intelli— gent, not just viewed as fodder for marriage: Some will think, that the instructions to be given here are too serious for ladies from fifteen to eighteen years of age. But to satisfy this objection, [I need only say] that I have merely [written] down the conversations that have passed between me and my [students]; and experience has taught me that those instructions are not above their reach.... We don't have a true [understanding] of the capacity of [young women]; nothing is out of their reach.... Now-a—days ladies read all sorts of books, history, politicks, philosophy and even such as concern religion. They should therefore be in a condition to judge solidly of what they read and able to discern truth from falsehood.I If we admit the possibility that Beaumont might be considered a prom-feminist, then we may question the opinions of first-genera— tion feminists who condemned her and her tale. For example, note that Beaumont's Beauty is not alWays submissive. When she first sees the Beast, she recoils in horror and does not repress her feel- ings; and when he asks her if she finds him ugly, her answer is direct and candid and in the affirmative. When Beauty returns to visit her father, she is‘not catering to the Beast’s wishes but indulging her own desires-In fact, self-indulgence, more than self~sacrifice, seems to characterize her time at the Beast's castle, where she has a room of her own and every kind of luxury. At these moments, it might be argued, the tale does not speak of compliance but of feminine independence and autonomy. I Quoted in Visions and Revision: l7. 64 THREE: AMONG THE CRITICS Moreover, it can be argued further, first-generation feminists do not offer a complete view of Beauty when they regard her as a self- sacrificial and powerless victim. In several ways, Beaumont offers a tale in which Beauty is in charge. Although the Beast is a huge and formidable creature, it is Beauty who calls the shots: she is the mis- tress of the house, the Beast insists, and everything and everyone (including the Beast himself) is at her command. Moreover, the tale dramatically emphasizes Beauty’s power of choice: she must come to the Beast’s castle of her own free will; she is not to be coerced but must freer choose to marry; she alone holds the power to transform the Beast; and, indeed. through much, of the tale he waits upon her decision. In fact, Beauty seems to 'inhabit a world. where males (her father, the Beast) are weak and where women have power. > These facts suggest something important: that “Beauty and the Beast” is not a story of feminine submissiveness but of feminine empowerment. Here may be found the reason for something noted earlier in this book—namely, the story’s unusual popularity among women. This is the point at which second-generation feminists, such as Marina Warner, have taken up the story and endorsed it. Inspired by the “pagan” and “earthy” feminism of writer Angela Carter, Warner secs “Beauty and the Beast” as not only dealing with power transactions but with “the complicated character of the female erotic impulse.”' In a fashion, Warner sees Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast" as the familiar kind of story seen in popular women's romance novels: the charged encounter between the nice girl and the dark or dan~ gerous‘ male. In Warner’s eyes, Beauty is going for “a walk on the wild side." And in this way, “Beauty and the Beast” addresses the attraction women feel towards males who are appealing not so much because of their looks but because of their dark and sexy nature, their animal magnetism. In advancing her views, Warner subsumes and answers other interpretations of the tale. Jungian and Freudian critics, for exam— ple, have suggested that the Beast represents Beauty’s own sexual or animal nature which she is resisting because of her special bond of 1 Warner 3 13. rm: MBANINGS or “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" affection with her father and the incest taboo. Warner is willing to accept the view that the Beast represents Beauty's sexual nature, but she steadfastly refuses to find a “problem” in that. Instead, she sug- gests, for example, that Bettelheim’s views reveal his prudery and discomfort with feminine sexuality since he feels obliged to stig- matize Beauty's encounter with sexuality as showing oedipal difficulties and arrested development. On her part, Warner finds the encounter powerful and positive: Bettelheim’s interpretation of ' the tale, Warner complains, “takes the exuberance and the energy from female erotic voices.”‘ At the same time, Warner also goes beyond the notion implicit in the interpretations of Marxists and first-generation feminists: namely, that Beauty is a victim. Beauty is not subjugated, Warner notes; once she gets to the Beast's castle, she is the mistress of all she surveys, and the huge and formidable Beast waits on her approval. If anything, the equation of power is tipped in her favor. She might, in fact, be seen as a dominatrix in several senses of the word, not excluding the sexual one. For Warner, “Beauty and the Beast" is a story of "female erotic pleasures in matching and mastering a man who is dark and hairy, rough and wild." Oedipal difficulties and sexual anxiety, the noblesse oblige and uppity bourgeoisie, womanly deference and feminine erotics—the spectrum of meanings this fairy tale produces is one measure of the story’s potency and prism-like perfection. \g. \ I Warner 313. 2 Warnersls. 66 SOURCES It IS IMPOSSIBLE TO Times the origins of “Beauty and the Beast” back to some alpha,some original source from which all other ver- sions flowed. That is as it should be. The story of a woman with an animal husband is as old as the hills. In response to common exis- tential problems, numberless individuals have imagined (at different times and all over the globe) tales about beastly spouses and their transformations. Stories of animal grooms were, no doubt, told by storytellers for centuries before they were ever written down. In their most com- mon form, fiequendy found in Africa and Asia, these tales tell of "The Woman Who Married a Snake.” One of the earliest records of this story appeared when it was written down in Sanskrit in the Panchatantm, a classical Indian text that probably dates to the time of Christ. A century later, Apuleius recorded a similar story in Latin as the myth of “Cupid and Psyche," and in printed form it would come to be widely distributed in Europe.‘ In the years and centuries that followed, Beauty-and—the—Beast— like tales were shaped from Apuleius’s myth and from oral folktales, but the next notable appearance of animal groom stories in print occurred in Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. .Several tales in Giambattista Basile’s The Pentameron (Pentamerone, 1334536) tell Cupid-and-Psyche-Iike stories of a snake husband or of wives who mistakenly believe their spouses to be monsters and who need to go in search of them once they are lost.2 On the other hand, stories of “animal husbandry" that appeared in Giovanni Francesco Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights (Le piacevoli notti, 1550) seem to have been drawn from indigenous folklore. For I Cf. Ruth B. Bottigheimer, “Beauty and the Beast," The Oxford Companion to the Fairy 72:12:, ed. jack Zipes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 45. z Bottigheimer 47. Basile's"Pinto Smalto" appears in Hearne's Beauties and Beasts “5‘50- 67 ...
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