Study Guide

Saint Joan Society and Class

By George Bernard Shaw

Society and Class

JOAN: "Captain: you are to give me a horse and armor and some soldiers, and send me to the Dauphin." (1.50)

By ordering her "better" around, Joan's defying the submissive role that society has trapped her in.

JOAN: "Then your [Dunois's] older and wiser heads are fatheads: they have made a fool of you." (3.33)

Joan in general has no respect for someone just because society says they're supposed to be in charge. She judges people on their individual merit.

THE CHAPLAIN: "Your lordship knows very well that I am not attached to the soil in a vulgar manner, like a serf." (4.13)

Being connected with farm work is a sign that you're as low class as it gets.

DUNOIS: "Sim-ple-ton! Do you expect stupid people to love you for shewing them up?" (5.13)

By crossing over society's barriers of gender and class, Joan has made numerous enemies.

JOAN: "If we were as simple in the village as you are in your courts and palaces, there would soon be no wheat to make bread for you." (6.174)

This sentiment is laced throughout the play. Joan's common sense is placed above the rationale of her "betters."

JOAN: "There is great wisdom in the simplicity of a beast, let me tell you; and sometimes great foolishness in the wisdom of scholars." (6.179)

Here's that common sense sentiment again.

THE CHAPLAIN: "I know that there is no faith in a Frenchman."
THE ASSESSORS: "Who is he? Is this what English Churchmen are like?"
(6.206-6.207)

Even among the clergy, Nationalism creates societal divisions.

LADVENU: "Henceforth my path will not lie through palaces, nor my conversation be with kings." (E.25)

Ladvenu wants to separate himself from the upper class because he sees them as inherently corrupt.

CHARLES: "What is hell like?"
THE SOLDIER: "Jolly. […] Tip top company too: emperors and popes and kings and all sorts." (E.97-E.98)

In the world of the play, no one is above hell. There, all class distinctions are erased.

THE SOLDIER: "Well, what do they all amount to, these kings and captains and bishops and lawyers and such like? They just leave you in the ditch to bleed to death." (E.169)

In the soldier's view, the upper classes only use the lower ones for their own benefit. Can we see this sentiment reflected in today's society?