Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
The Religious Subtext of The School for Good and Evil
The School for Good and Evil is a middle grade fantasy series that received a film adaptation earlier in the year. Beyond the occasional reference to various faiths, the series does not incorporate explicit religious subject matter, but I would like to analyse the unintentional religious subtext I have interpreted from the narrative. I believe there is scope for a discussion of how the series inadvertently engages with concepts such as predestination and the existence of a supreme being.
“Predestination” is the idea that God chooses which people will receive salvation and which will receive damnation prior to their creation. As the title “The School for Good and Evil” suggests, the books are set in a world where some people are similarly designated as “Good” and others as “Evil”. Within the story, membership to “Good” or “Evil” is not determined by a character’s actions, but instead, is determined by one’s soul at birth. By presenting a person as intrinsically “Evil” or “Good”, the book echoes the religious idea that a soul is predestined to Heaven or Hell.
The School for Good and Evil also inadvertently presents the idea of a supreme being through the “character” of the Storian. This may sound strange to those unfamiliar with the books, but the Storian is a sentient, omnipotent, and powerful magic pen that preserves the balance between “Good” and “Evil” and chooses people in the world to write about in real time. Characters do not explicitly worship the Storian, but it is treated as an ultimate authority. Two of series’ antagonists – one with an “Evil” soul, and one with a “Good” soul – are defined not only by villainous actions (eg. hurting others) but by their efforts to to replace the Storian as the supreme authority within the world. Through this, it can be suggested that the series engages with the existence of a supreme being and humans’ relationship to that god.