Stockholm Syndrome in Beauty and the Beast Short Summary

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Since the 1700’s, fairy tales have undergone changes and acquired different meanings. The Disney adaptations of these stories are usually favored for children as they remove the violence, sexualization, and objectification found in the original versions. Nevertheless, both the modified and authentic renditions of fairy tales convey a shared message. In “Beauty and the Beast,” this message is depicted through a girl discovering empathy or affection for her captor and ultimately marrying him.

Commonly known as Stockholm syndrome, this psychological disorder or condition occurs when a hostage or captive develops sympathy, compassion, or positive feelings towards their captor, and may even defend them. The French version of “Beauty and the Beast,” written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince De Beaumont in 1757, also explores this theme, although it shares similarities with the familiar version.

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The central theme of “Beauty and the Beast” is the exploration of Stockholm syndrome, which affects both Beauty and the Beast as they experience a transformation through love, morals, society, and emotions. Beauty’s moral compass drives a partial transformation in her character; her remarkable virtue stands out prominently. According to Beaumont’s version of the story, her father specifically recognized Beauty’s virtues, particularly her patience (Beaumont 33). Not only was Beauty admired by all except for her jealous sisters because of her physical beauty but also for her authentic compassion and kindness towards those around her.

Her willingness to help her father during their move showed her patience. Beauty’s sisters criticized her because she was more favored and did household chores, which they thought only maids should do. Unlike her sisters who focused on money and marrying rich people, Beauty prioritized the well-being of her father and family. Consequently, she demonstrated a selfless attitude as she cared more about others than herself. In his article “Towards a Social History of the Literary Fairy Tale for Children,” Jack Zipes explores this idea.

In this time period, Beauty was expected to possess virtues and morals. Zipes raises the question of why the literary fairy tale was formed and suggests that it was for this purpose. According to him, adults needed and cultivated the literary fairy tale to enforce the manners and values that children, particularly young girls, were supposed to embrace in order to promote upper-class civility and Christianity (Zipes 25). Therefore, Beauty’s compassionate nature and willingness to assist her family served as an example for children.

Beauty’s vulnerability and compassion made her susceptible to Stockholm syndrome, which is more commonly found in young women who are both vulnerable and virtuous enough to see the good in anyone. In one instance, when Beauty’s father had to leave to collect goods from the home port, her elder sisters requested extravagant items, whereas Beauty simply asked for a rose. This was not because Beauty desperately wanted a rose, but because she did not want to set a precedent that would reflect poorly on her sisters.

Despite her sisters’ lack of respect for her, she displayed kindness and respect towards them. This further supports the notion of Stockholm syndrome as she continues to find kindness to offer, despite their hatred towards her. De Beaumont’s tale also emphasizes the significance of obedience and self-denial. During that era, it was expected for young girls to obey their elders. In his article “Symbolic Narratives: The Dangers of Being an Intertextually Inclined Character,” Richard Lynch discusses the role of women in fairy tales.

“Lynch asserts that women in fairy tales, such as Beauty, belong to a category of individuals who lack power. In general, these women feel compelled to sacrifice themselves in order to save their fathers,” (Lynch 8). While Beauty was not explicitly asked to replace her father in the castle, she understood that it was expected of her to offer herself. By volunteering for this role, Beauty obtains a sense of empowerment as she takes control of the situation and demonstrates her ability to be autonomous. Another advantage that Beauty possesses over her sisters is her prioritization of essence rather than mere appearances.

Beauty tells the Beast that she is pleased with his kind heart after he witnesses her eating on their first night together. She admits that he no longer appears ugly to her and this is the moment when she starts to understand that someone’s external appearance does not define their true self. This realization makes Beauty more vulnerable because she is not as shallow as her sisters, values more significant things, and sees beyond people’s looks.

Continuing to be vulnerable, this vulnerability exposes her to Stockholm syndrome as she starts recognizing Beast’s true nature and develops feelings of empathy and friendship towards him. Love is discovered by looking past human flaws. Another factor that contributes to Beauty’s change is the societal norms of the 1700s. Central to this fairy tale is the concept of arranged marriages, which were often embraced willingly by girls as it reflected their cultural values.

During this period, arranged marriages were prevalent, and many women harbored fears and concerns about being bound to someone they may never grow to love. Beaumont effectively addressed these apprehensions by illustrating the possibility of developing affection for one’s assigned life partner. In his article on the origins of literary fairy tales for children, Jack Zipes explores how Beaumont incorporated the theme of arranged marriages in her stories.

In every short story written by Beaumont, she has always addressed an audience of young girls in pre-puberty and emphasized on the importance of being submissive, as noted by Zipes (6). The purpose of this was to prepare them for their future lives, specifically marriage. Beauty, in particular, volunteers to become the Beast’s captive and willingly submits to his desires. Although she made this decision freely, it still symbolizes the concept of an arranged marriage.

Throughout the tale, the Beast repeatedly proposes marriage to Beauty, yet she politely declines each time. On their initial encounter, Beauty remarks, “It is unfortunate that he is so ugly, for he is very kind” (38). This demonstrates her burgeoning empathy towards her captor. Additionally, it highlights the fact that despite being compelled to reside in the castle, she cannot help but develop feelings of love and compassion for the Beast. Beaumont conveys to the audience that it is possible to cultivate love for someone in an arranged union, as evidenced by Beauty’s ability to fall in love with a repulsive beast she was forced to coexist with.

The submissiveness exhibited by Beauty demonstrates the validity of the Stockholm syndrome theory, as it indicates her vulnerability and capacity for empathy. Additionally, her romantic experiences and feelings of love contribute to her personal growth. In her article titled “Romancing the Plot: The Real Beast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” June Cummins highlights Beaumont’s emphasis on Beauty’s affinity for music and literature, establishing her as a literary heroine during an era when such characters represented a new type of female protagonist (Cummins 3).

After introducing the concept that Beauty enjoys reading and learning, Beaumont does not revisit this idea again. Instead, the focus shifts to romance, a common theme in fairy tales. Beaumont now turns to preparing young girls for the challenges they may face in the future, such as marriage and the possibility of a love story. Initially, Beauty believes she could never love someone as hideous and foolish as the Beast. However, by the end of the story, she realizes that she does love him and desires to marry him. The Beast grants Beauty permission to visit her family for a week, but her sisters deceive her into extending her stay.

When Beauty returns to the Beast, she finds him on the verge of death due to his profound sorrow. Comforting him, she assures him that he will not perish but instead live and become her husband. She declares her commitment with sincerity, pledging her hand in marriage and devoting herself solely to him. Though initially believing her feelings for him were only of friendship, Beauty is awakened to the depth of her love through the overwhelming grief she experiences. These words mark an important realization for Beauty, as she discovers that her affection for the Beast transcends his appearance. As a demonstration of her compassionate nature, Beauty’s reward is granted when the Beast miraculously transforms into a handsome prince.

Despite the Beast’s captor-like nature, Beauty was able to discover love and compassion within him, highlighting the presence of these emotions in all types of relationships, even ones involving a beast. By finding love and compassion in her connection with the Beast, Beauty’s experience also supports the concept of Stockholm syndrome. Despite being held captive by him, she develops feelings for him, which is the central premise of Stockholm syndrome. Beauty’s life undergoes a remarkable transformation due to her virtuous qualities, societal role, and capacity to love the Beast.

She ultimately consents to marrying her captor due to her vulnerability, submissiveness, and capacity to feel compassion for the most repulsive creature. Beauty demonstrates empathy and sympathy towards the Beast, affirming the existence of Stockholm syndrome in the story. Her virtuous nature and expected behavior are the reasons why she is susceptible to this syndrome. Had the Beast held one of her sisters hostage instead, their hearts brimming with jealousy and rage, the outcome would have varied.

Beauty’s heart was filled with love and kindness, making her vulnerable and allowing her to emotionally connect with the Beast and believe in the myth of love.

Work Cited

“Beauty and the Beast.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. 33-34,38,41.

Cummins, June. “Romancing the Plot: The Real Beast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 20. 1 (1995): 22-28. Project MUSE. Web. 9 November 2013.

Lynch, Richard. “Symbolic Narratives: The Dangers of Being an Intertextually Inclined Character.” Studies in the Novel 41. 2 (2009): 224-240.

Project MUSE. Web. 7 November 2013. Malarte-Feldman, Claire. “You’ve Come a Long Way, Beauty (and Beast). ” Children’s Literature 20. 1 (1992): 236-240. Zipes, Jack. “The Dark Side of Beauty and the Beast: The Origins of the Literary Fairy Tale for Children. ” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 1981. 1 (1981): 119-125. Zipes, Jack. “Towards a Social History of the Literary Fairy Tale for Children. ” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 7. 2 (1982): 23-26. View as multi-pages

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Stockholm Syndrome in Beauty and the Beast Short Summary. (2016, Aug 19). Retrieved from

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