Book Report: Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc is one of the most famous feminine figures in the world history. Her life was a road full of sorrows, deprivations and struggle for liberation and independence. Joan of Arc proved that there was always way out; all that was needed was struggle and hope for better future. In 1920 Joan of Arc was canonized and, in such a way, initiated a new sparkle of interest among French historians and scientists. Joan’s image is one of the most astonishing and powerful as she was burned at the stake.
Joan was young and beautiful lady, she was full of hope, and her face seemed to be shining with knowledge of her cruel death, but she never gave up. She was only 19 when death faced her body, but not her soul.
Girlhood. Joan’s real name was Jehanne Le Pucelle, but she preferred to be known as Joan of Arc. Her childhood was fairly conventional and nothing extraordinary is observed by historians.
Her parents were free peasants with own land and livestock. Joan, similar to other girls of her age, worked on common tasks about the house, rather seldom she was asked to go to the fields with cattle. Historians note that Joan was proud of her womanlike skills, she wasn’t taught to read and to write, instead, she was taught how to remain proud in any situation. Civil war in France continued throughout her life having begun the year before her birth. Of course, civil war negatively affected her childhood as she was aware of cruelty of the war, deprivations and destruction. In the age of 16 she was evacuated from her native village and sent to the town in Lorraine for the fear of Burgundians. Historians admit that Joan was very religious, but it didn’t prevent her from being strong, healthy and robust girl.
Joan’s Voices. Joan seemed to be aware of her extraordinary destiny. She was sure that she was born to perform specific tasks, she was appointed by the God. Actually, such beliefs enabled her to accomplish everything she had planned for country. Joan wrote: “When I was thirteen, I had a voice from God to help me govern myself. The first time, I was terrified. The voice came to me about noon…I had not fasted the day before. I heard the voice from my right, coming from the church. There was a great light all around”. (p.13) Later she managed to identify the voices stressing they belonged to Saints Margaret and Catherine and Archangel Michael. However, the message of the voices was the most important for her, not, from whom they came. Joan realized she was chosen to be the God’s instrument and her destiny was to save France from England.
The Beginning. Historians say that Joan’s mission to save France wasn’t astonishing or shocking to her contemporaries. The author notes: “There was a well-established tradition of (particularly) holy women receiving divine relations, which often brought them into public prominence”. (p.15) However, it would sound strange that a pure maid from Lorraine could save the whole country from oppressors. Of course, Joan’s departure caused pain to her family as she was only about sixteen. Her journey to Chinon took over 300 miles – over 11 days. Moreover, her way held through enemy territory and she had to pray to receive instructions from the voices. At Chinon she got an admission to see the Dauphin and she told the king she “wanted to wage the war against the English”. (p.18) She brought the message from the God that he would give the king his kingdom and would allow him to crowned at Reims. Joan positioned herself as the God’s messenger in this affair. Charles realized that Joan would dynamize the war effort. Moreover, Joan had a list of clear goals: to raise the siege of Orleans, to liberate Paris, to drive the English enemies out, etc.
The Liberation of Orleans. French soldiers knew that enemies concentrated around the south and west of Orleans and didn’t have enough troops to surround the city. Therefore, Joan’s arrival played decisive role in Orleans’ liberation. The English were retreated and English fort was overrun. Joan’s first participation in battle turned out to be a long-awaited victory. Joan desired aggressive actions and was often opposed by military commanders that aggression wasn’t the only military tactic. One day Joan was fighting fiercely all the day round, the next day she was writing letters warning the English to leave France and abandon their military actions. Joan wrote that when a crossbow bolt stuck in her throat, it was Saint Catherine who helped her to survive and to continue her divide mission. After the bolt had been pulled out, she returned to the front line to motivate soldiers and to get the victory over the English. The French were filled with the confidence and successfully attacked again. Orleans was liberated and English soldiers withdrew the next day. Joan saw her role in leading, encouraging and inspiring the soldiers. She claimed she hadn’t killed anyone, but according some evidence, she actively fought.
The Summer of Victories. Joan’s fame swiftly spread after the liberation of Orleans. Joan of Arc was viewed as self-fulfilling prophecy. What is more important is that Joan has convinced the French that the God was on their side and that the English were terrified by her supernatural powers. It is noted that “on 2 June 1429 the King granted Joan the right to arms, and commissioned her and the duke d’Alencon as commanders of the French forces at the siege of Jargeau…”. (p.25) They got the victory, but Joan was upset because of the slaughter. For example, one day she saw how a French soldier left an English prisoner to die; she approached him and asked for his last confession. The next day the French army won a battle at Patay and it was merely her presence that inspired and encouraged the soldiers. Joan’s several goals were accomplished. The Dauphin was crowned, and the French were planning to get the final victory over the English. Actually, that was the peak of Joan’s fortunes.
Decline and Fall. After the coronation Charles planned to disband the army for the winter, but Joan strongly opposed that, she was bewildered and confused as she found out no one was listening to her divine messages. The end of the war put an end to her divine messages. Joan started to think that Charles simply used her to encourage and motivate the soldier and to become the King of France. Joan directly disagreed with new Charles’ policy and she even attempted to attack Paris with a small troop. However, her expectations that Parisians would oppose the king’s policy failed to be realized. Therefore, faith in her as a divine messenger was altering. After a series of unsuccessful attacks she realized that the King found her not valuable any more. She was imprisoned and held at the castle of Beaulieu, but later was moved to the castle of Beaurevoir after a failed escape attempt. Later Joan revealed that she was planning to be sold to the English.
The Trial. Joan’s achievements were within military and political spheres, and she argued she was guided by the God. Therefore, she was charged of idolatry, heresy, blasphemy and immodest behavior. It is noted: “Of course, it was much more shocking then that is now for a young girl to show her legs but the whole concept of a women dressing as a man was deeply upsetting to them, against nature and the God-given order of things”. (p.30) During the trial she tried to prove that everything done was done by the God’s will in response to direct divine revelation, but she realized no one believed her or pretended not to believe. Joan stressed that obedience to God is more important for her than allegiance to the Church. She was willing to hear the mass, but refused to put on women clothes. In such a way, she refused to change her principles for saving her life. Of course, from the very beginning of the trial she has been already sentenced to death as she was unnecessary figure for both French and English kings. She was sentenced to burning and nothing could change her destiny. Nevertheless, Joan seemed to be ready for death, she was allowed to pray and asked for crucifix. Then she was bound to the stake and the fire was lit. Joan didn’t scream; instead, she called out to Jesus, Mary and the Saints.
Joan of Arc remains one of the most astonishing figures of feminine achievement as she managed to help France to get the victory over the English. Her actions were guided by the God through direct revelations, but when the war ended, no one was listening to her. She was sentenced to death through burning. Within the next years the cult of Joan grew rapidly and she was considered a national heroine who got the victory over the English single-handedly. On may 19, 1920 Joan of Arc was declared a saint.
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