Original Research

De Beaumont’s Beauty and the Beast: A feminist analysis

Monique Banks
Literator | Vol 42, No 1 | a1713 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v42i1.1713 | © 2021 Monique Banks | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 June 2020 | Published: 17 June 2021

About the author(s)

Monique Banks, Department of English Language and Comparative Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Fort Hare, East London Campus, South Africa


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Abstract

De Beaumont’s fairy tale La Belle et la Bête published in 1757 in France is examined in this article by analysing gender roles and performativity, using the feminist and new historicist frameworks. The characters of Beauty, her sisters and that of the Beast are analysed for evidence of typical, patriarchal behaviours and relationships or more modern, innovative ones. Adapting her tale from the much longer text by De Villeneuve, De Beaumont created an innovative tale which discusses gendered expectations and marriage relationships in modern ways. Her characters and their relationships are often inverted and they behave in ways unexpected and unaccepted by the overtly-gendered, 18th-century patriarchal rule. As her tale was created primarily to educate her younger 18th-century readers, the tale is an interesting commentary on gender roles of 18th-century France. De Beaumont provided alternatives to the typical female fairy tale characters, depicting an empowered Beauty who makes her own decisions and in doing so, is able to free the Beast from his imprisonment in a beastly body. De Beaumont faced a number of challenges in creating her tale, making it a subverted feminist rendition, often portraying contrasting female characters in ways subtler than more recent renditions of the classic tale. Beauty does not aggressively contrast patriarchal ideas of gender, and neither does the Beast; however, their characterisations present alternatives to these patriarchal expectations and stretch their boundaries on masculine and feminine behaviour.

Keywords

Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont; Beauty and the Beast; 18th century; France; gender roles; patriarchy; fairy tale; literature

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