Since the Beginning…

Jocks, popular, orch-dorks, nerds, band geeks, etc. are all stereotypical groups to which we associate with high school and stereotypical high school movies. The apparent necessity to create this social hierarchy dominates the world we live in and the world we know, starting at a young age. This hierarchy I speak of can even be found in the lines and words of Lanval by Marie De France and Paradise Lost by John Milton. Though movies over exaggerate the idea of these groupings (the breakfast club, mean girls, etc.). It is what we learn from the first day of school that sticks with us for our entire lives. We learn quickly that there will be people who we don’t like, people who we do like, and people who are not alike but are still respectful of one another. This is a commonality in Marie De France’s pieces, but none show it with the obviousness and literal sense that Lanval does that we read earlier in the semester, as well as Paradise Lost by John Milton. Social classes are found throughout history, even if they are not entirely the same. The want and somewhat human need for drama and excitement can be found and is common ground. The need to step on others to elevate oneself, and the need to be the best at everything, or wish to be the best at everything. Even in medieval times, the struggle of high school-like drama has the root cause of conflict.

We spoke about Marie De France’s work of Lanval earlier in the semester, but I had to bring it back because of its connections with Paradise Lost. In the reading, Lanval is described as a beautiful, handsome, kind, generous, brave knight, practically the perfect person, but because of this perfection, he is treated as though he was imperfect. This ties into the common concept that stems from high school drama that people who are jealous, will always find ways to make others feel worse to make themselves feel better. For example:

20 “That was Lanval; Arthur forgot him 

For his valor, for his generosity

His beauty and his bravery

Most men envied him;

Some feigned the appearance of love

Who, is something had happened to him, 

25 Would not have been at all disturbed.”

Marie De France, Lanval, Lines 20-25

Connecting to the last two lines, the other knights at the round table gave no care to Lanval, no matter how kind and generous he was, instead they could care less if he was injured or killed because of the jealousy they had for him. This plays into the concept of pushing others down to climb the social ladder.

In paradise lost, Eve was someone who was in a way “hyped up”. Satan made it a point in her dreams and in his serpent form to tell her that she belonged among God as a Goddess and that this world was almost “not good enough” for her. It was her temptation that reminded me of highschool popularity. There was no reason for her to be obsessed with herself other than when others placed her on a pedestal. And only when that happened did she fall into her temptations. The need to be loved and adored.

“Here, happie Creature, fair Angelic Eve,

Partake thou also; happie though thou art, [ 75 ]

Happier thou mayst be, worthier canst not be:

Taste this, and be henceforth among the Gods

Thy self a Goddess, not to Earth confind,”

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 5, Line 74-78

After the dream that Satan tempted her, she was quick to inform Adam about it, genuinely scared about what was going on. She was met with a sad Adam, who didn’t comfort her, but rather was quick to think about himself. What would this mean for him?

My Guide was gon, and I, me thought, sunk down,

And fell asleep; but O how glad I wak’d

To find this but a dream! Thus Eve her NightRelated, and thus Adam

answerd sad.”

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 5, Line 91 – 94

Because of this doubt in Eve, Eve was left to these temptations, the dreams constantly weighing in on her. This can be connected to the gossiping nature of the stereotypical high school rumors. The gossip coming from that of Satan, and the feeling of betrayal coming from Adam because of the false gossip.

“What may this mean? Language of Man pronounc’t

By Tongue of Brute, and human sense exprest?

The first at lest of these I thought deni’d [ 555 ]

To Beasts, whom God on thir Creation-Day”

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 9, Line 553-556

The snake (Satan) therefore, personifies the concept of gossiping, liars, etc. to reach this hierarchy of popularity by tricking, or in a way stepping on Eve to prop himself higher on the social hierarchy, therefore making him closer to God. Adam and Eve are God’s creation, so the concept of stepping on them to gain power is a way to personally attack God, just like people do in Social situations whether it be high school, sports, and even in the workforce. The connection of a serpent to Satan is one that can be taken quite literally, Satan is the “Snake” that ruins God’s plans.

This connects to Lanval in many ways. The concept of propping oneself higher on a pedestal by turning others against them is prominent in the story telling as well as high school life. There are those who could care less, and there are those who have this idea of being on top, being better than everyone so much so that it consumes their life. Satans constant need to try and ruin all of Gods plans is one connection, and the other knights of the round table treating Lanval as though he is nothing is another.

High school drama seemed unnecessary, and reliving it through movies and songs is one thing, but finding it deep within the context of medieval renaissance writing is another. This makes me realize that just like the song High school never ends by bowling for soup, that with every generation, there will be that social hierarchy, that basis of conflict of what is deemed “best” will never truly leave us because it is what we are. And it is what our society has, and will always be raised on.

Highschool Never Ends, Bowling For Soup

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One thought on “Since the Beginning…

  1. Wow! This is a great project. Not only does it deeply analyze those stories, but the connection to our modern life is very well done. One of my favorite connections is the one you made in Lanval regarding the social ladder. Jealousy is a crazy thing that will make people do things extremely out-of-character. The gathering they were in really does sound like a High School cafeteria, where peoples actions are on display for everyone else. It’s interesting how people seem to hate those who are liked by a lot of people, even though it’s because they are nice and generous like Lanval. Great topic and analysis!

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