Short Story Collections
Paper: Spring 2018 College W450 Capstone Seminar: Metaphors
Unlike my other stories, this is my favorite paper from college. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie, so when my professor said I could write a paper to analyze anything I wanted- I thought this would be a great opportunity to analyze it. I do not own Beauty and the Beast. The original story is out of copyright, but the movie I analyzed belongs to Disney.
Beauty and the Beast
Love is a Rose
When I walked my senior level English class, I had no idea that metaphors could be more of a cognitive process than flowery words. In learning that mere metaphors are so ingrained in our thought process on a neurological level from Lakoff, I found a whole new way to look at the world we live in and the things we’ve created. I am studying creative writing as my degree, but it is only one of my passions. Art and color is the other. So instead of only analyzing literary works, I chose something both literary and artistic. In this first ‘Thought Paper,’ I am going to analyze the metaphors in Disney’s live-action movie Beauty and the Beast.
There are slight differences between Disney’s animated version and this live action version. The live action version adds her father stealing a rose and a rose rattle. Slight differences, but in the use of the following metaphor- I find it to be significant.
The first noteworthy metaphor I found is an incredible extended metaphor found throughout the entire movie. It is this idea that the journey to love is a rose. In Kovecses, we have found that love is a journey. That still applies to this movie as Belle and the Beast do fall in love and you could map each moment as a journey, but the journey in this particular movie starts and ends with a rose.
A rose can easily be mapped on this concept of love. A rose has thorns. It is beautiful and red. It can grow, bloom, wilt, and die. It is a symbol for love. People give each other roses to express their love for one another. Love can be painful. It can be beautiful. Love can grow, bloom, wilt, and die- just like a rose. Red is also a color for Valentine’s day- the day for love. It is the color for passionate love.
The Beast and Belle have different journey’s to find love. At the beginning of the movie, the Beast refuses to give the old woman shelter for a rose in return. He is then morphed into a beast for turning down a rose. He turns down compassion, which is a love attribute. He is forced to take this rose under his care. His quest is to fall in love with a woman and earn her love in return before the last rose petal falls. The rose here represents his quest, his journey to find love. The Beast says he received, “eternal damnation for a rose.”
This rose is dying throughout the movie. As the petals fall, the castle crumbles and the cursed servant become more like their personified objects. Love is dying here. This love quest is timed. The hope for love in the Beast’s heart is dying just like the rose.
When the Beast gives Belle her freedom, he is not focused on the rose. He is not thinking about himself. He has learned compassion. He no longer cares about himself, he cares only for her.
At the end of the movie as the last petal falls, Belle says, ‘I love you’ to the beast. The Beast’s journey to love is over. Everything becomes lighter, the Beast himself glows, and they share a magical kiss.
Belle’s journey to love is very different. At the beginning of the movie, Belle’s father asks which gift she would like upon his return. Belle says that she wishes for a rose. Her father picks a white rose for her gift at the Beast’s castle and is imprisoned for it. Belle takes his place for her choice of a gift. The white rose is symbolic for purity. This looks like to me that her father found Belle a suitor. The rose is for Belle at the Beast’s castle after all.
The next time Belle finds a rose, it is under very different circumstances. She wonders up into the west wing of the castle and finds the red rose in a glass cage. Love is trapped, just like Belle. The Beast tells her to leave and she does. When wolves attack her, the beast saves her. She has a choice to either escape or save the Beast and she saves him. The rose offered her a choice in love- to continue the journey or to leave. Her compassion won’t allow her to leave the Beast to die.
When she encounters the rose the next time, it is a rattle from when she was a baby. It is another symbol on innocence and purity. Near the end of the movie she gives the rattle to her father and he lets her go to save the Beast. Belle sings earlier in the movie, ‘I can’t go back into my childhood, one my father made secure, I can feel a change in me, I’m stronger now, but still not free.’ Her love that was so innocent is gone. Her love is now more mature.
In essence, as you watch the movie both Belle and the Beast grow together in love like the rose. If she had not given the rattle to her father, Belle wouldn’t have matured. Without releasing Belle from his care, the Beast would not have learned compassion.
Another extended metaphor in this movie is of mirrors and beauty. Looking into the mirror reflects the self or the mirror is the beholder.
At the beginning of the movie, the Beast has smashed and broken all of the mirrors in his room. Except for the magic mirror the enchantress left him. The mirrors he smashed reflected him. He smashed and rejected his own image. The magic mirror reflects the outside world. He looks to the outside world for gratification. Later in the movie, the Beast gives the mirror to Belle to remember him by. He is no longer looking for acceptance from the outside world. He is looking for acceptance from Belle.
Gaston, however, has a different journey with mirrors. He constantly looks at mirrors and checks his appearance. He owns a pub. In it are symbols of his self-image including a portrait of himself. He is a stag. He has antlers everywhere. He has women and men following his every move. There is even a song about how great he is. When Belle shows the Beast in the mirror to Gaston, he does not see the Beast the same way she does. He sees the image of a monster.
Belle’s journey with mirrors is only worth mentioning because of the Gaston and the Beast. Her name means beauty, but she never looks into a mirror except to see her father or the Beast. While Gaston sees the Beast as a monster, she sees through that. When Gaston falls to his demise, he takes the mirror with him. His self-image is destroyed.
In Kovecses (152-4), “The Great Chain of Being” it puts animals and their instinctual behavior below human behavior. The Beast’s behavior changes throughout the movie. At the beginning he yells, losses his temper, and he eats like an animal. As the movie progresses, however, he becomes more human. He becomes better dress, learns etiquette, and even reads.
Gaston is a different case. He becomes more animal-like throughout the movie. At the very beginning he carries flowers, but shortly afterward he shows disrespect to Belle by walking on her cabbages. He thinks only of pressing his suit to Belle. He behaves just like the animals he hunts. The only time he calms down is when he remembers his animal behavior from the war. It shows that “Human Behavior is Animal Behavior (152)” in Kovecses, but Gaston further recedes into animal behavior by tying up Belle’s father and trying to feed him to the wolves.
Near the end, the Beast has a chance to kill Gaston. He does not take it, further showing his compassion. The Beast is already human even before he transforms. He no longer shows any animal-like behavior. However, Gaston shoots at the Beast multiple times. He shows no compassion and makes his downfall literally.
In conclusion, this movie is rich with metaphors. Some, I had not realized until I watched it looking for metaphors. I can now appreciate this new live action version better. With just a few changes, it allowed Belle to grow into a woman and let go of her childhood. I have seen the animated version of this movie well over one hundred times. I never noticed that the rose was actually in a cage. It symbolizes Belle and the Beast so well. They were both trapped. They had something in common with the love-symbolizing rose. That image just symbolizes this movie so completely.
Condon, Bill, director. Beauty and the Beast. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2017.
Kövecses, Zoltán, and Réka Benczes. Metaphor: a Practical Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2010.