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Chaucer's Irony - The Canterbury Tales
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Irony is a vitally important part of The Canterbury Tales, and Chaucer's ingenious use of this literary device does a lot to provide this book with the classic status it enjoys even today. Chaucer has mastered the techniques required to skilfully put his points across and subtle irony and satire is particularly effective in making a point. The Canterbury Tales are well-known as an attack on the Church and its rôle in fourteenth century society. With the ambiguity introduced by the naïve and ignorant "Chaucer the pilgrim", the writer is able to make ironic attacks on characters and what they represent from a whole new angle. The differences in opinion of Chaucer the pilgrim and Chaucer the writer are much more than nuances - the two personas are very often diametrically opposed so as to cause effectual irony.
In the Friar's portrait, he is delineated and depicted by riddles of contradictory qualities. Chaucer expertly uses ironic naiveté to highlight the Friar's lack of moral guilt. When the reader is told that the Friar, "knew the taverns wel in every toun" (l. 240), we can take it to mean that he spends very much time drinking,
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