Writing Catalog

Zoe Bennett

Grade: 12

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Jamie Mueller

How a Rose Lives through Beauty and the Beast

Critical Essay

How a Rose Lives through Beauty and the Beast

One common denominator in all fairytales is their possession of a motif, symbol, or theme that accentuates a story's main lesson (or message) that it is trying to teach. They often interact with the main character, either as an important value or an object of personal significance that highlights their characterizations. Grimms' Tales have a distinct habit of using simple objects to accomplish this task. The tale of "Cinderella" uses gold slippers with an emphasis on movement. "Snow White" has a red apple and a theme of innocence. "Beauty and the Beast" by Marie Le Prince de Beaumont honors roses, throughout this tale of romance. Roses are placed in conjunction with romance, but the red rose identifies loyalty, commitment, beauty, courage, and passion—themes sitting right at the heart of this fairytale. The rose is first given precedence when it instigates conflict with the Beast, setting off a chain of events initiates his and Beauty's love story. However, the power of the rose grows as it indicated through physical or symbolistic interaction with the two main characters. Eventually, the flower becomes sacred to them both through the lessons and themes of the tale.

It is no coincidence that Beauty, a beautiful girl of humility and virtue, solicits a rose from her humbled father while her beautiful sisters of jealousy and vanity "begged of him to buy new gowns, caps, rings, and all manner of trifles" (11). In this sentence, De Beaumont casually sets up a juxtaposition to provoke consideration of the girls' characters based on how she scripts the text. While it criticizes the commodities Beauty's sisters ask for to highlight their prideful ways, it also provokes admiration for Beauty's request of a rose. The noun "trifle" is used to delineate an object of little value or importance, providing more evidence to bolster their shallow personalities. However, when Beauty queries if "[her father] would be so kind as to bring a rose," as "they are kind of a rarity," de Beaumont not only introduces the flower but places it in correlation with Beauty (11). For something to be a rarity it must be unique in state and/or quality. By not asking for fine clothes, Beauty distinguished herself from her sisters by supplicating a rose and drew more attention to her character (12). This interaction between the young lady and a rose is purely symbolic, as she never physically touches one at any point in the tale. Aside from being is as unique to her community as the flower she asks for, it can be argued that a rose is wholly represented by Beauty. She claims that the sacred flower is difficult to find, and de Beaumont stresses that the ideas it is associated with—love, courage, passion, and virtue—are all given life inside Beauty and her alone in her community.

Beast, the deuteragonist of equal humility and virtue, is also linked to the rose via his personality. Unlike Beauty, his connection to the flower is physical and symbolic, as the entire conflict of the fairytale is initiated when Beauty's father takes one of the Beast's roses, inciting his wrath. Because the latter "values [roses] more than anything in the universe," he decrees that Beauty's father, or one of his daughters, must pay the price for the thievery (12). De Beaumont infers that the sacredness of Beast's roses come from what they may represent for him: love, beauty, and passion; none of which he perceives himself to be able to have because of his appearance. While Beauty personifies the rose on the inside and out, Beast has internalized it beneath his form of an "ugly monster" (13). In his own words, he claims that his "heart is good, but still [he] is a monster," in a tone that gives off forlorn resignation. This is both self-pity for his predicament and a mere acceptance of his fate to be a feared monster for the rest of his life (14). De Beaumont designs Beauty and Beast's society to value quality and substance, so individual character is pales to the importance of aesthetic appeal—hence the rarity of roses. Beast acknowledges this with his previous claim, but the statement's syntax is designed to provoke incredulous thought on the idea of an outwardly hideous creature having a humble, virtuous nature. As Beauty states, "among mankind, there are many that deserve [to be called a monster] more than [Beast], who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart" (14). In other words, she reflects on how people who, despite being aesthetically pleasing, have rotten values with "corrupt and ungrateful hearts." De Beaumont uses the layout of Beauty's claim to emphasize her honorable character, but also give an element of humanity to the Beast and allow the two to connect on a passionate level. Essentially, Beauty's request of a rose leads her to an individual who embodies the themes and associations of one.

The rose stays firmly at the root of the tale as the instigator of bringing Beauty and Beast together and initiating their love story. However, unlike the fairytale's movie adaptation, the rose is not glorified in a glass case as a symbol of fragile time. Instead, it is woven throughout the morals and lessons of the text through symbolic interpretation and representation through the tale's titular protagonists. The red rose is one of the most well-known symbols of love and romance in the concrete world and fairytales, but it also corresponds with loyalty, beauty, virtue, and passion, all of which are portrayed in "Beauty and the Beast" throughout the tale. Beauty, a beautiful young lady unlike any in her family (and community), humbly requests a rose from her father and, in doing so, unwittingly seals the fate of them both when he enrages the Beast. De Beaumont cleverly spins the rose and its themes inside the lesson of this fairytale: society should value inward qualities such as kindness and morals over substance such as wit or appearance. While Beauty never receives a physical rose from her father, she finds the spirit of the flower concealed beneath the hideous appearance of the Beast, and eventually falls in love with him.

The Darkness in Delight

Personal Essay & Memoir

The Darkness in Delight

When people speak of the term delight, they often refer to someone or something that makes even the semblance of a smile appear on their otherwise crestfallen face, and even on the greyest of days that make the universe forlorn, there's that set of one or many things that come as a source of "delight." In fact, delight's noun and verb textbook definitions include the phrase "great pleasure," with an emphasis on the idea of bringing an individual immense joy or happiness. In my mind, the idea of bringing someone "delight" can be as simple as eyeing them from across the room, giving a little sparkle in your eye, and flashing those charming teeth. Or even a tiny little gesture of your hand, so that they know in their soul, "I see you."

It goes without saying that it takes very little to delight me. People could say that means I'm too easy to please, that my expectations are too low, or I don't wait for the best. But I like to believe that means I'm a generally happy person. I look for the best in (most) things, which could include a shiny striped rock with tiny silver specks I'd spot through the foggy haze of Lake Erie's green waves. However, my biggest sources of delight fall in what exists within my normal universe: in the interior and exterior. One of which is that layer that separates us from the never-ending void of space. Or as we call it, the sky. And if I'm going to be even more specific, the things that happen in it.

The sky is a funny entity, no? We tell small children they can touch it, they believe that when the sun sets, it touches the ground, and if they run far enough, they can catch it. But really, it's space: it goes on forever, and even if you try, it'll always be far out of your reach. Even as a child, I believed this was interesting, but even more what goes on in that funny thing called the sky. How science has given it many names, split the biggest name into at least four parts, and how the sky completely disappears once you go through it, and out of it.

We are told that the sky is dangerous. And they are right, as the second our feet leave the ground, we're hapless to gravity and that terrifying feeling of weightlessness. But even more terrifying are the things that happen up where nobody can see through their naked, failing eyes, and where it's only safe to see locked inside a metal bird with engines and circuitry.

I actually have no idea why I have such a delight for it since I typically refrain from going outside to examine it closer. That owes to the fact that I extremely dislike when my skin glistens from the hot sun beating down on me and the rest of them, and before I know it it's running down the front of my face and stops at my chin like salty tears, before ultimately falling to the ground (or my shirt, depending on what angle my body's at). Then my body becomes sticky to my "un-delight," overshadowed by the delight I get from slamming down that neon green ball into the fading blue court, jumping up as a brown and white thing against the bright blue sky. The heat coming from the sky gives me sweaty tears for my delight.

On those days where the universe around my house is blue, everything has been made grey and dull; I prefer to watch the rain fall from the black clouds in thousands and listen to them hit the Nature Stone pebbles on my porch like shattered crystals. To my delight, when the night-ish sky lights up, quick, like the snap of a finger, and is always accompanied by the companion it will be forever stuck with, the beat of a drum. BOOM. There's no thunder without lightning, after all. My heart tends to quicken just a little when the bang is strong enough to make the ground quiver, even a little bit, and I see the water in my glass ripple outwards. Watching and listening to the vibrations move around us in giant spectacles is always delightful, even the few moments where it gets me nervous enough to crawl under a warm blanket on the couch and cuddle up into a tiny ball.

I'm proof of finding delight in something that, more often than not, scares me from time to time. And yes, I'm sometimes what some folks would classify a paranoid. Or maybe a minor paranoid, since not everything scares me that much. People could argue that it's hard to like something you're terrified of. I firmly believe otherwise, and there's majesty to be discovered in finding the beauty of something you fear. At night, the darkest hour, when inside your house it sounds as if a bucket of hot, steamy rain continues to be poured directly onto the roof like a microburst of water, there's the familiar boom everyone calls thunder, followed seconds later by lightning. In the dimly lit corner of my room, my eyes are wide open, staring hard at that jagged ribbon of purple light that streaked overhead at sharp angles. It's gone so quickly but in my mind I'm staring into the clouds where it was, imagining that it's still there and wishing I'd taken a picture. That bright jagged stripe of powerfully charged electricity illuminates the sky in a spectacle in less than a millisecond, but it is guaranteed that somebody else was watching it and gasping at the marvel. Then I wait for the inevitable moment where I get an alert on my Storm Watch app that a lightning strike occurred within five miles of my location. At that I just laugh.

And then I jump up like a jackrabbit when it happens again. Louder, more violent, and somewhere far away, it strikes. The ground, a tree, or something else we don't want to think about.