Date of Award
Master of Arts in English
While current criticism has discussed various versions of the “Beauty and the Beast” tale individually, none have traced any particular trends that have emerged within the tale as it has been revised over the centuries. One particular trend began in the eighteenth century, when Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont streamlined the tale from the oral tradition in order to utilize it for the moral education of young French girls. Along with this pedagogical goal, Beaumont also managed to critique Samuel Richardson’s Pamela and the abuse Pamela often suffered at the hands of Mr. B by revising her Beast character to act much kinder to Beauty. Beaumont’s intentional revisions then set in motion a similar utilization of this particular tale by many later authors and even filmmakers: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et La Bete, Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast, and even Disney’s most recent live-action take on Beauty and the Beast. In each case, these versions not only revise advice to women about “beastly” men, but they each appear to resist other social elements, whether they be the expansion of the British Empire and the presence of the “other,” the trend towards realism in Post-WWII French film, hyper-masculine men of 1980s entertainment, or myriad ideologies and beliefs that still persist today. Essentially, Beaumont’s revisions of the tale served as a catalyst for those who later revise the tale to employ it as a vehicle of resistance against contemporary people or events that they personally find “beastly.”
Williams, Monica, ""Tale as Old as Time": the "Beauty and the Beast" Narrative as Vehicle for Social Resistance" (2017). ETD Archive. 997.