Beauty as the Beast: Constructions of the Girl in Three Modern Variants of the Tale as Old as Time
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This thesis aims to answer the following question: How is the girl constructed across three modern variants of “Beauty and the Beast?” The three primary texts examined in this paper are Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Angela Carter’s short story, The Tiger’s Bride, and Salman Rushdie’s novel, Shame. Each text was analyzed specifically for how it remains consistent with and deviates from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast” published in 1756. My aim was to go beyond a sex-role theory analysis and assess how these modern variants revise a traditional plotline to construct the girl in terms of her agency, transformation, and fate. Emphasis was placed not only on comparing and contrasting the girl and the female experience across these three texts, but also on placing these texts within the context of gender studies and fairy tale scholarship at large. A major premise of this thesis is that fairy tales are in an incredibly powerful position to inform, socialize, and re-socialize both children and adults. As a result, this project strives to elucidate what each of the three primary texts conveys about the fictional girl and about the actual girl represented by the fiction. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates how the fairy tale influences our popular conception of gendered identities and how it can play a role in remedying longstanding and often harmful portrayals of these identities. It shows also how important this research is in today’s social and political climate—where fundamental (if subconscious) misunderstandings of the woman have perpetuated the injustices she faces.