My 14-year-old daughter recently landed a part as a “silly girl” in the local community theater’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. What exactly does a “silly girl” do in such a production, you may ask? Well, she basically fawns over Gaston, the burly, handsome, dimwitted villain of the story. The play, by the way, was excellent, and I’m not just saying that because of familial bias. I honestly forgot more than once that I was watching a small-town production of such a big-time musical.

As is the mark of any truly great story, Beauty and the Beast seems to resonate with me in new and different ways each time I watch the tale being told. This time around, I was struck by how truly tragic a figure the Beast was. There he was, basically a prisoner in his own castle, seemingly hopeless in his quest for true love. At one point in the play, the candelabra Lumiere mentions that the curse he, the Beast, and everyone else in the castle is under has lasted 10 years. The narrator’s voice at the beginning of the production says the Beast “fell into despair” over the course of time. There was very little left for him to hope for before Belle crosses his path.

I had to wonder as I processed all this what it was that kept the Beast holding on all those years. For the first one or two years, sure, I could see him being able to maintain a sense of optimism, despite the horrible curse which he had placed upon him. After five years, though? Six? Seven? Despite his gruff demeanor, when Belle first arrives at the castle, a slight glimmer of hope can be seen in the Beast. Where did that hope come from, though? Why was there any optimism left at all by that point?

One of the words most commonly associated with depression is hopelessness. It’s the feeling that things are never going to get any better, no matter how hard you try. Even in hopelessness, though, people find an amazing resiliency to carry on. Yes, sometimes hopelessness can lead to a very tragic end, but in many cases we see people living with it every day. Even when we don’t realize it, there is something within all of us that is fighting to stay alive. We may seem without hope, but there is something hopeful within us that just won’t let us quit.

I do not know what that internal drive may be, but I am thankful for it. It has emerged many times in my life to carry me through situations I know I could have never made it through on my own. Something inside each one of us wants to live. Even our physical bodies are designed for life rather than death. Ending one’s life is not an easy thing to do. More often than not, it is physically painful, and the body will still fight against death until the very end. We are hardwired to carry on.

The Beast probably didn’t even know he had any hope left in him before Belle entered his life, but it emerged nonetheless. He tried to fight it, but it was too much for him to overcome. Hope is powerful, and I hope to do a better job of recognizing it in my own life. It has the power to break curses … even in a Beast like me.

Leave a Reply