Melissa McDonald LBSC 646 – Core Book Assignment Beauty by Robin McKinley
One of the themes of Beauty is the idea of what beauty truly is – Is it an outward appearance or does it shine forth from inside? Another theme is acceptance of oneself for who you are and to accept both one’s weaknesses and one’s strengths. Another is hope for a better future. Examples of these themes are found in the following quotes: Our father, bless him, didn’t seem to notice that there was any egregious, and deplorable, difference between his first two daughters and his youngest. But in time I came to be grateful for his generous blindness. I could talk to him openly, about my dreams for the future, without fear of his pitying me or doubting my motives. (5) “Oh, I’m aware of your temper, Beauty, you needn’t fear. And I am telling you the truth-you have the sort of mind that prefers to know things.” (43) Poverty seemed to agree with me. Grace and I were bridesmaids…I did contrive to look presentable. After a year of sun and wind and hard work my skin had cleared up, and since I refused to bothered with a hat, I was brown from working so much outside, which suited me better than my usual sallow pallor. (47) “I welcome Beauty and Honour both, then,” he said. “Indeed I am very fortunate.” (118) My eyes filled with tears; but they didn’t spill over till I suddenly saw the house covered with roses, huge, beautiful roses of many colours; somehow that was worst of all. I laid my face in my arms and cried. (164) And that’s why I won’t wear it; if you put a peacock’s tail on a sparrow, he’s still a brown, little, wretched little, drab little sparrow,” and as a net of moonbeams settled around my shoulders and a glittering pendant curled lovingly around my neck, I sat down in the middle of the floor and burst into tears. (183) “I don’t know where to begin.” “Begin in the middle and work outwards,” said Hope (207)
The protagonist, Honour, a 16 year old girls that as a small child preferred the name Beauty and her family began to call her by that name. However, as she grew older, and her nickname followed her, she realized that she did not possess the outward beauty of her two sisters, decided she was plain, with big hands and feet, and pimples, and refused to look into mirrors, preferring to bury her nose in a book or work outside with her brother- in-law. On the surface the antagonist is the Beast, who had been under a curse for 200 years and imprisons Beauty. However, he is actually the one who helps her to find her inner beauty, which not only save herself, but her family, and ultimately, the Beast. The underlying antagonist is Beauty’s self-bashing, her inner self telling her that she is not beautiful, and therefore not worthy of the good things given to her.
The conflict is when Beauty’s family falls on financially hard time, and they have to sell everything and move to the country. When Father is lost in a winter storm in the enchanted forest and takes refuge at the Beast’s castle, he takes a rose for Beauty as he leave, and the Beast threatens to kill him for doing so. He offers to spare Father’s life if he exchanges his place with his daughter’s, telling him that Beauty “would take no harm” from him if she comes of her own free will (73). The conflict is resolved when Beauty does go to stay with the Beast, where she finds that he had demanded a girl come to him because he “lacked companionship. I was rather lonesome there sometimes, with no one to talk to.” (117). The Beast sought a wife, and daily asked Beauty to marry him. It took many months, but she was finally able to see inside him to find his true nature, and slowly fell in love with him. And I was not until she professed her true love for him that the curse was broken, and he became a man again. I enjoyed this more ‘grown up’ version of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. Always the romantic, I am drawn to love stories with a happy ending, and enjoyed being immersed in the story and its characters. This was another of the books I have read that has been commented upon by students at Poolesville High School as one that they had enjoyed reading as a younger student. Topics that could be discussed are being true to oneself, standing up for what is right, or being courageous when you face something or someone you fear. Other topics could be how people handle losing everything, and how poverty can affect your life and one’s decision-making.