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The Greater Good

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  1. Introduction
  2. Joan the Maid's childhood
  3. The introduction of the sister of Jeanne, Catherine
  4. Attempts to view Joan of Arc beyond a religious context
  5. Miracles, visions and voices
  6. Jeanne's future sainthood
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

Joan of Arc never lived to hear her own name; she never lived to see her own deliverance. Jeanne la Pucelle (Joan the Maid) died a heretic. Redeemed twenty-five years later at the nullification of the Rouen trial that sentenced her to the stake, Joan finally earned the honor behind the surname D'Arc, but not before cementing a dichotomy larger than the split between England and France. Was Joan of Arc truly a messenger of God, or merely a girl spawned by satanic delusions or personal vendettas? History fails Joan; it is not even known for sure her date of birth or her exact age at death. Régine Pernoud, in her book Joan of Arc: Her Story, paints a portrait of Jeanne left incomplete by lack of fact and verification. Even her accompanying collection of interviews and transcripts, Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses, presents a one-dimensional Joan void of any emotion beyond her devotion to God. Such reckless piousness is hard to believe. Most fictional accounts of the Maid sacrifice spirituality in the name of humanity. Even William Shakespeare in his theatrical representation of King Henry VI presents Joan as the basest of villains, weak to the point of embracing Satan to save her own life. This English propaganda, common in decades following the end of the 100 Years War, presents a strikingly human Joan in comparison to the French obsession with her as icon alone: it is easier to sympathize with Joan as a lost girl torn on the eve of her death than as a devout Christian unbreakable even by the thought of fire and damnation. In his film The Messenger, Luc Besson attempts to find understanding in the story of Jeanne la Pucelle, a kind of humanity disallowed by history and Joan herself.

[...] Aside from information gathered at Domrémy during both the original Rouen trial and its subsequent nullification trial, Joan the Maid's childhood is for the most part an empty slate. There was nothing remarkable about Joan as a young girl: was just like everybody, she did every thing like everyone else, and, except for her notable piety, she rarely distinguished herself from the group,? says Pernoud, echoing the admissions of Joan's fellow villagers (Pernoud 161). Her age and birth date as stated in history books are no more than educated guesses, and numerous scholars insist a possible noble lineage. [...]

[...] Besson touches on the fragility of a child's mind, the fateful moment that can transform a pious peasant into a vengeful warrior. Joan cries, Joan listens, and Joan rushes to a church in Neufchâteau to drink of the blood of Jesus Christ. want to be one with You she screams, the wine dripping down her face (Besson). At the age of eight, she yet to be confirmed; she has no right to the receive the Eucharist. She commits blasphemy, slave to her rage and desperation. [...]

[...] However, once again, it is hard to sympathize with a woman so detached from earthly existence; in a sense, Jeanne only walked on earth, because her soul was already in the presence of God, bending to his every whim and devoted entirely to spreading His word. It is easier to believe Luc Besson's story of a young girl, lonely, confused, disturbed, finding a sword in the grass and assuming it to be from God, assuming it to separate her from the mundane lives of the other peasant farmers. [...]

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