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A deeper look at Joyce’s ‘Eveline’, and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at a feminist angle, shows the many stereotypes of women present like helplessness, in need of saving, male oppression, only caring about looks and female characters that are portrayed in demeaning ways such as being foolish and weak.
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In Eveline, a prevalent stereotype is women being helpless, damsels in distress and in need of rescue. Eveline’s indecisiveness and accompanying lack of action is a result of women’s roles in society at that time period. She is indirectly told by society that she is powerless and due to this she feels that way. This feeling of inadequacy is partly why Eveline is incapable to make a decision and feels as if she needs a male figure like Frank to “save” her from her present circumstance. Eveline sees marrying Frank as a way to acquire regard, which tells readers that she is somewhat helpless without a husband. In the text, it states “But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not be like that. Then she would be married — she, Eveline. People would treat her with respect then.” In the text, readers see that she is trying to make up her mind on whether or not to leave. She reasons through her rights, saying things like “Why would she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness.”
This need to prove her own thirst to be happy is an aftereffect of feeling helpless due to social repression of her society. Society has told her that she is supposed to be a caretaker and should be driven by the needs of others instead of her own. Eveline takes care of her father and two children and feels culpable leaving for the reason of her own happiness, knowing that they are depending on her. This puts her in a helpless situation as she is unable to determine her own future. In contrast from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Belle has an adventurous spirit but feels helpless as she wants more out of her life than staying trapped in what her little town has to offer. She states in the film, “There must be more than this provincial life!” Belle wants to experience more than her village’s local and restricted interests and outlooks. By reading books, this seems to be an escape from her current reality and helps her gain a greater perspective of life from her little town. She even tells the book owner in one scene, “your library makes our small corner of the world feel big.” The stereotype of being a damsel in distress and in need of saving is portrayed as well, as viewers can see that Belle is taken hostage by the beast.
From the opening of the film trailer “Beauty and the Beast,” the audience is aware of Belle’s societal expectations and what the occupants of the village think of her. The sunlight strikes on Belle, emphasizing her beauty as the townspeople fawn over her physical appearance. They repeat how beautiful she is, thereby creating an example for the other women in the society to aspire by. Even though Belle is considered beautiful, we learn that most people in her village think she is strange due to her love for reading.
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We hear of one of the women in the town admiring her by saying, “Now it’s no wonder that her name means beauty, her looks have got no parallel” and in response three of the town girls say “but behind that fair facade I’m afraid she’s rather odd.” This highlights and shows the stereotype that an educated woman is looked down upon and it is preferred that women should only be a pretty sight to look at. Furthermore, in Eveline, the stereotype of male oppression is recognized.
Eveline finds to marry a sailor who charms her with tales of the water. She starts to think of the water as away to rid herself of her oppressed life as she fantasizes of going “away with him by the night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres where he had a home waiting for her.” Nonetheless, as Eveline is about to give her life to the hands of another man than her father, she comes to realize that she is only yielding herself from one man to another. The water then turns into an oppressive force as “All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart.” Eveline’s dreams of freedom are now overshadowed because the water is not a sense of self support anymore but another form of control.
The female characters in Beauty and the Beast are portrayed as foolish. An example are the three girls who fawn over Gaston as he enters the village. They are portrayed as shallow and superficial because they are only attracted to him for his looks and physical appeal. In the film trailer, they state “Be still my heart, I’m hardly breathing” and describe him as “tall, dark, strong and handsome.” Though they mention nothing of his personality and character. Another example is when Belle is reading to a little girl while doing the laundry.
They are confronted and frowned upon by some of the village people. In the film, one of the village people ask, “teaching another girl to read? Isn’t one enough?” This infers that Belle is the only girl in town that can read and the rest of the female characters are illiterate. In Eveline, Eveline is seen as being weak because Frank seems to have the upperhand in their relationship, where he values his position of power and controls her.For instance in the text, Frank “seizes” Eveline’s hand and calls for her: “A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand, “Come!” Eveline is held back by Frank in order to prevent her from making her own decisions and leaving him. Eveline feels as if she must remain with Frank in order to feel like she is needed and wanted by someone and she views Frank as a stable entity who can care and provide for her. This text portrays women as weak because they are seen as subordinates and in need of being loved and protected.
In conclusion, comparing Beauty and the Beast and Eveline reveals many stereotypes that were present amongst women in Belle and Eveline’s societies such as helplessness, male oppression, looks, as well as female characters that are portrayed in demeaning ways such as being weak and foolish.
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