F.A.Q The importance of school

** Was school really that important at the time?
The British take their schooling very seriously and wear it like a badge of membership their whole life, because schooling is completely intertwined with social station in British society. For example, in "The Daily Mail Yearbook for 1954" [note: One of the books I am using for background info. jp], pp. 196-7 lists "Leading Headmasters," the headmasters of the 'leading' Public (i.e. private) Schools. There they are, for all to see, to learn about and to know. Note that The Daily Mail Yearbook would not have been bought by people attending those schools. The publication was designed for consumption by the masses. (This focus on the cultural importance of school hasn't changed much; recently [Jul. '95] there was a press report which made it all the way to San Francisco papers informing the world that one of the Prince and Princess of Wales' sons had been admitted to Eton, a first occurrence for the House of Windsor. jp) The traditions in Christchurch, New Zealand were rooted in the same English sensibilities, especially with regard to the value of education and its social significance. Indeed, many of the power-elite in Christchurch in 1954 were English or were of English stock, and were easily identified whenever they opened their mouths to speak (see Social traditions in New Zealand were changing in the 50s, and the similarities and differences between New Zealand and Britain and the different social trends make for fascinating study. Regardless, it is worth taking a close look at schooling in "Heavenly Creatures."

** How important was school in Pauline and Juliet's lives?
At the girls' age in 1952, their whole day-to-day life would have revolved around school, and there is plenty of evidence in "Heavenly Creatures" to support this. In fact, the time line of real-life events shows an uncanny correlation between critical events and the school calendar (see 7.3). The girls are shown wearing their school uniforms throughout much of the film, and school uniforms are used symbolically in many ways in "Heavenly Creatures." See below and Despite the fact that they rebelled against it, school was very much the defining experience for the girls at that time in their lives. It concentrated within its four walls everything about the society in which they lived, and especially all of the values and yardsticks used to define the worth of people in that society. And it was a competitive environment. To Pauline, especially, school had been the only outlet for her intellect and for her creativity, until Juliet arrived. The importance of the school events in the first half of this story probably can't be overestimated.

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Laurence S Moss