Paine takes pains to emphasize to the reader that everything in his book is based on recorded facts, taken from sworn testimony and contemporary chronicles so that “from the first page to the last it is all true.” Probably for this reason, his book is strongest when he writes about Joan’s imprisonment and trial in the last third of the book—a time of her life that is very well documented.
The Girl in White Armor lacks the dryness of many historical texts while retaining the authenticity of research that one would expect in a scholarly work. Paine makes Joan accessible to the reader. He emphasizes that she learned all the skills that were expected of a girl in that time and place, such as housework, cooking, and sewing. In most respects, she was ordinary and proud of the fact, and to the end of her life she retained the simplicity of a strong-minded peasant maid. What made her different was her voices, voices that she claimed came from messengers of God. These voices educated, guided, and comforted her in her duty. In Paine’s book, it is clear that Joan’s unassuming humility would never have sent her out in the world without the commands of these inner messages. Paine stays with the known facts on this topic. He emphasizes her strong spirituality while never stating an opinion about whether her voices were real or imaginary.
Paine’s style of writing is both personal and detached in turns. Although he never fictionalizes her story, he does suggest Joan’s inner life:...
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Paine originally wrote a biography for adults entitled Joan of Arc, Maid of France (1925). The book was successful, and he was persuaded to rewrite it for a younger audience. The result was The Girl in White Armor, which immediately won recognition for its outstanding qualities. Of the two works, it is the book for young adults that has stood the test of time and has come to be acknowledged as a standard biography.
At the time that he researched and wrote these books in the late 1920’s, Joan’s story was fresh in the public mind because of her recent canonization as a saint. This act gave the ultimate seal of approval to a story in which fact and fiction were often confused. Paine’s book legitimized Joan’s story and helped to reestablish her as a fitting heroine. Paine’s historical accuracy, his shrewd exposition of Joan’s status as a legend, and his depth of feeling for his subject make The Girl in White Armor a time-honored classic.