In Search of Cupid and Psyche:
Myth and Legend in Children's Literature
Focus Questions For Rose Daughter
Making Beauty overcome her revulsion to the Beast is surely one of the challenges in writing
"Beauty and the Beast"--particularly if the writer chooses to begin with an almost-perfect
Beauty, as McKinley does. How does Beast become physically less repellent, in
McKinley lovingly describes the physical characteristics of Beauty's world, lavishing great
attention upon even the most minute detail, slowing the pace of the story in the process. For
on p. 145, Beauty observes the Beast rush away from the dining table. "The Beast laid her hand on the
table again, as gently as he might have set a bubble of blown glass on its pedestal. He turned
and walked away so swfitly she thought he must still be angry; she looked down at her arms and
touched the scratches with her fingers, wondering on whose behalf he was angry. Hers, his, for
his wounded honour as host, by his guest wounding herself on his rose bushes, for the roses
themselves? It was true, her arms did ache, she had been more careless than she should have been,
in her eagerness to get on. . . One or two of the deeper cuts were slightly warm to the touch,
perhaps turning septic." What is one effect achieved by this technique? What, if anything, is
McKinley saying about description? About the physical world? About observation?
How do the stories of Lionheart and Jeweltongue echo the mythic themes of transformation?
Unlike animals, whose ability to range over
space--to bind spatial distances together--we human beings can also bind time: through certain specifically human activities--language,
for example, separate moments in time can be held in suspension, juxtaposed, compared,
contrasted, synthesized (to solve puzzles, for example). Rituals suggest one kind of time-binding
activity. In "C&P," Venus's tasks represent a kind of time-binding ritual in which Psyche must
literally overcome the restrictions of time to produce a seemingly impossible result. (This is an
activity one can compare to the act of reading, the bringing forth of unrestricted meaning and
understanding from a set of finite signs.) Explain how Beauty's gardening may also be considered
a time-binding ritual, and how this aspect of it--particularly in her cultivation of roses--forms
the central component of the story. Relate it to the temporal aberration described on p. 264.
How does the old woman (i.e., p. 196) help to contribute a sense of Reality to the story?
Based on your reading of Neumann and other Jungian critics, who believe
that "C&P" represents the development of the feminine, how would you assess Psyche's desire to
seek fulfillment in her relationship to Jeweltongue, Lionheart, and Rose Cottage? (Be critical!)
- Explain how the operation of myth
is echoed by Beauty's successful efforts to make her world conform to the details of a fairy tale, on p. 200.
What character studied earlier this semester does Jack Trueword resemble? Can we compare him to
the suppressed negative aspect of the Beast (the Bluebeard aspect), the serpentine aspect of Cupid?
- Discuss how the ending of
Rose Daughter imparts an understandoing that the major transformation in "Beauty and the Beast" is not in the
beast's appearance, but in Beauty's perception.