Gaston may have shot him with an arrow and stabbed him in the back, but it was Beauty killed the Beast in Beauty and the Beast (1991). I’d like to walk through the scene in which the Beast dies to explain what is going on beneath the surface. This scene means so much to me because it reminds me of my own experience losing and then winning back the girl who would become my wife. So I have a unique perspective on it that can explain some things most people wouldn’t pick up on.
The Beast Loses Belle
After the Beast sacrifices his only chance at happiness by allowing Belle to leave and help her father, he is devastated. She thanks him for restoring her freedom because it means he understands how much she loves her father. But this shows that she doesn’t understand the love that prompted him to do that for her. As she hurries away from the castle, the Beast cries out in agony because he is certain he will never see her again.
The Beast falls into a deep despair and wishes to die even as his castle is besieged by a mob of villagers. He puts up no defense to Gaston’s vicious blows, and he is just about to surrender to sweet death. But then the unthinkable happens. Belle returns! What could this mean except that she’s had a change of heart and realized she truly does love the Beast?
This is all the Beast needs to regain his desire to live and fight back against Gaston. He soon overpowers the brute and as he holds the man’s life in his hands, he chooses to show mercy because in Gaston’s pitiful pleas for mercy he hears an echo of his own anguished cries for a merciful death just moments before.
His demeanor immediately changes when he hears Belle’s voice calling to him from above. He climbs up to her, and his voice is full of wonder and disbelief as he proclaims, “You came back!” But just as she appears to offer that love he had yearned to receive from her, Gaston stabs the Beast in the back and falls to his death.
The Beast’s Devastation
Belle pulls the Beast to safety and helps him lie down peacefully. Even in his weakened state, he can’t help but focus on a single thought, repeating, “You… you came back.” There is so much love in his eyes as he says those words because what he’s really saying is, “You do love me.”
But Belle dashes his hopes when she replies, “Of course I came back. I couldn’t let them… oh, this is all my fault. If only I’d gotten here sooner.” She didn’t have a change of heart about him. She still just thinks of him the way she did before she left. She cares about him the way she would care about anyone in need.
Rather than getting angry or crying out in pain as he would have done before she helped him temper his emotional outbursts, he calmly replies, “Maybe it’s better… it’s better this way.” What he means is that he’s better off dead after all because she doesn’t reciprocate his love. He’d rather die than remain cursed. It’s a crushing blow to fail after coming so close to earning the love of the one who means the most to him.
Belle again affirms that nothing has changed in her mind when she gently responds, “Don’t talk like that. You’ll be all right. We’re together now. Everything’s going to be fine now, you’ll see.” The Beast smiles sadly, knowing that she doesn’t understand what he’s trying to say. He reaches out to her the same way she had at their earlier farewell in order to quiet her offers of hope. In a resigned yet noble tone, he declares, “At least I got to see you one last time.” And then his hand falls away from the side of her face as he dies.
It’s only after she’s lost him that Belle realizes how much the Beast meant to her. Now it’s her turn to taste the devastation of losing the one she loves. She cries inconsolably over the Beast’s unmoving body at the thought she finally gives voice to, “I love you.” Thankfully, there’s a happy ending as the curse is broken and the Beast is restored to his human form. But that doesn’t change the fact that both Belle and the Beast had to go through some major heartache to earn their happy ending.
The Power of Love
It’s a testament to the power of Beauty and the Beast’s storytelling that it manages to say so much with a few words. When the Beast believes Belle loves him, he wants to live. But when she proves through her words or actions that she doesn’t love him that way, then he loses all hope and gives up on living. I’m convinced he would have kept fighting to stay alive if Belle had given him any indication that she had come back not out of a sense of duty, but because of something more. It’s extraordinary the power that the people we love have over us. To love someone is to open yourself up to the deepest pain and the greatest joy. This scene perfectly captures this idea.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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