NARRATOR: As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope…for who could ever learn to love a beast?
The Beast has the mother of all identity crises. Once thinking of himself as a young prince who had it all, he now sees himself as totally repulsive. At least he's not kidding himself. He's trapped in a hideous body and doesn't even know who's in there anymore. His servants are his only connections to the person he used to be.
BELLE: I want adventure in the great wide somewhere
I want it more than I can tell
And for once it might be grand
To have someone understand
I want so much more than they've got planned.
Belle's spiritual exile from the village stems from the fact that her identity is fundamentally different from that of the villagers. More importantly, they want to change her identity to fit their own ideas, something she has no interest in whatsoever. They can't understand a young woman who likes to read and is in no hurry to get married. She's very confident about who she is. Was adolescence easier back then?
GASTON: No one says no to Gaston!
Gaston doesn't have an identity crisis; he knows who he is, and he's perfect. Yeah, see, that's a problem, big guy. In fact, it's probably what makes you the villain. The villagers don't help by reinforcing this idea in the first place and letting Gaston get away with saying stuff like this.
BELLE: Yes, you will. And you'll win first prize at the fair tomorrow.
BELLE: ...and become a world-famous inventor!
MAURICE: You really believe that?
BELLE: I always have.
Maurice is trying to become something that he isn't—yet. He thinks of himself as an inventor, but a couple of serious failures have made him question that identity. Belle loves him and tries to support that idea about himself. It's that ability to transform yourself into who you most want to be that Belle probably inherited from him. It's what takes her from oddball bookworm to well-read princess.
LUMIERE: I was trying to be hospitable!
Even as a candelabra, Lumiere can't help but be Lumiere. You could say the same thing about the other servants, who keep their original natures whether they're human or enchanted decor. Contrast that with the Beast, who needs to do a lot of work on himself if he wants to lift the curse.
LUMIERE: Impress her with your rapier wit.
MRS. POTTS: But be gentle.
LUMIERE: Shower her with compliments.
MRS. POTTS: But be sincere.
LUMIERE: And, above all...
LUMIERE and MRS. POTTS: You must control your temper!
Sadly, the servants still don't get what needs to be done. They're trying to shape the Beast into something he's not in hopes of fooling Belle into falling for him. That's just not going to cut it with a curse like this. The Beast's change has to come from within.
LUMIERE: Ten years we've been rusting
Needing so much more than dusting.
A chance to use our skills!
Lumiere's status as a servant is so ingrained in him that he has to put it into song. This guy's identity seems pretty secure. He lives to serve.
BELLE: There's something sweet
And almost kind
But he was mean
And he was coarse And unrefined!
And now he's dear
And so unsure
I wonder why I didn't see it there before.
Belle starts to see a different nature under the Beast's formerly angry and terrifying exterior. He's been doing some reflecting and realizing he needs to put Belle's needs ahead of his. She makes him want to be a better man, um…Beast.
LEFOU: He was raving like a lunatic. We all heard him, didn't we?
Lefou voices a very dangerous threat here, and we're not just talking about committing Maurice to the loony bin. We're talking about the ability to define yourself measured against a community's ability to decide who you are. It's the ultimate peer pressure: if we say you're a nut, then you're a nut.
BELLE: It is you!
After the Beast's transformation, Belle recognizes him by his eyes, seeing his soul rather than his outward appearance. That's where his identity lies: it's the part that needed to be healed and which has finally become worthy of the handsome face he now wears.