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Saint Joan

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Saint Joan, by Bernard Shaw represents a women’s right to pursue a career and any lifestyle that she chooses. Within the play, Saint Joan does not confine herself to the boundaries of a traditional woman’s role, in a time when it is uncommon for women to be unconventional. She does not think of herself as someone challenging conservative boundaries, she only wishes to follow her voices’ instructions in a practical way. Saint Joan does not hesitate to speak in a public arena or to act independently, in doing so she asserts women’s rights. She pursues her individual path so that she may follow the word of God, not to change how people view women.

There is evidence that Joan is not a typical woman of the time: the Duchess and the ladies of the court laughing at Joan’s hair and her clothes in the Dauphin’s court illustrate this point (Shaw 81). Joan wears men’s clothing only out of practicality, rather than as a statement of women’s right to dress as they please. The other women’s ridicule does not upset Joan, she responds by explaining frankly, “I wear it like this because I am a solider….” (Shaw 81) It does not embarrass Joan to dress in men’s clothing; she finds it practical in the life that she has chosen.

During the trial, the Inquisitor demands that Joan “… put off that impudent attire and dress as becomes [her] sex?” (Shaw 137). Joan responds with very sensible reasons for why she dresses in men’s clothing: “I was a soldier living among soldiers. I am a prisoner guarded by soldiers. If I were to dress as a woman, they would think of me as a woman: and then what would become of me? If I dress as a soldier they think of me as a soldier, and I can live with them as I do at home with my brothers“ (Shaw 138). Saint Joan could not go to the battlefield in petticoats, it would not only be very cumbersome, but it would also put her at a great disadvantage with her enemies as well as her comrades. She would not be able to command with gender being an issue, in particular upon the battlefield. Furthermore, when Joan dresses in male clothing, it allows her to gain entrance into the male society that she is trying to access. In addition, it aids her in gaining acceptance by those she comes to help and thus for them to take her seriously. Therefore, Joan is perceived as a woman and not as a solider.

As mentioned previously, this becomes a disadvantage when she is on trial and it is one of the main charges brought against her. Consequently, it is also one of the reasons the church targets Joan. They accuse her of rebelling against nature (Shaw 108) because Joan does not adhere to the strict gender guidelines of dress; during the trial D’Estivet calls her “indecent, unnatural and abominable” (Shaw 137). The men and women’s reaction to Joan’s attire demonstrates that she lives in a time where it is uncommon to push the limits of the strict gender guidelines of dress as well as the strict gender guidelines of how one should live their life.

Throughout the play, Joan does not deny that she is a woman. Her intention is to be an individual and not to have the role of a typical woman constrict her individuality. She wishes to follow her own career choice as a solider, not to have her life determined by gender. Joan illustrates this in a conversation with Dunois saying that “I will never take a husband […] I am a soldier: I do not want to be thought of as a woman. I will not dress as a woman. I do not care for the things women care for. They dream of lovers, and of money. I dream of leading a charge, and of placing the big guns” (Shaw 92). This further illustrates that Joan cares about being a solider and a leader and shall not to be confined by her gender. Joan displays various womanly traits throughout the play as well. For example, she forbids swearing, drunkenness and womanizing among her comrades (Shaw 65 112). In addition, during the trial Joan boasts of her skills in spinning and weaving (Shaw 134). The Chaplain then asks Joan why she does not do women’s work if she is so good at it. Joan replies that “there are plenty of other women to do it; but there is nobody to do my work” (Shaw 134). Given these facts, it is obvious Joan is not denying her womanhood; she is living her life as an individual.

Joan follows her own unique path in living her life. She does not allow the gender guidelines of her time to interfere with her mission. Furthermore, she is not concerned with how the church and the feudal nobility view her. Joan is only concerned with what God wishes her to do. Joan believes that God instructs her through the voices of the saints. She does not believe that the church holds more authority than the direct instructions she receives from God. Thus, Joan threatens the authority of the church because she

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