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"How effective is Chaucer in establishing the General Prologue of "the Canterbury Tales"? (Line 1 - 43)

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Introduction

Edward Gillingham A2 English Lit. (The Canterbury Tales) "How effective is Chaucer in establishing the General Prologue of "the Canterbury Tales"? (Line 1 - 43) The General Prologue is developed through the conflict Chaucer presents between nature and life. Both his description of the scene and of the characters of which he writes, is seen to mirror this contrast and thus it can be seen as one of the many literary devices he uses to make the piece effective. I will show how these devices, the language he uses and the tone it creates allow his success in making the passage efficient. Chaucer opens the General Prologue with a description of the return of spring. He describes the April rains, the burgeoning flowers and leaves, and the chirping birds. The invocation of spring is lengthy and formal compared to the language of the rest of the Prologue. ...read more.

Middle

choose to travel to Canterbury to visit the relics of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, where they thank the martyr for having helped them, "...whan that they seeke". With such an opening, one can therefore find evidence of the marriage of the two elements of nature and life. It can be seen that Chaucer's literary efforts at this point are geared towards the depiction of natural events having a sub-conscious bearing upon the actions of people, and thus outlines that, although, as the reader will come to see, the characters have very different approaches and motivations for partaking in the journey, they do share a sense of direction and enthusiasm towards a common goal. Chaucer is then seen to abandon his unfocused point of view, identifying himself as an actual person for the first time by inserting the first person: "I", as he relates how he met the group of pilgrims while staying at the Tabard Inn. ...read more.

Conclusion

With such an introduction, it is evident that Chaucer is more than able to use descriptive language and vivid imagery in order to create a firm picture in the minds of the readers. It is also made clear that his belief is that all things appear rejuvenated and awakened by the return of spring, in particular, the sense of faith and devotion of the pilgrims. However, what is interesting is that, although at this point in the tale, the pilgrims are made to appear as though their intentions lie solely in their internal drive to better themselves by travelling on pilgrimage, it will become increasingly apparent to the reader as the tale continues that this is not the only motivation for some of the characters and that many hold more baser qualities in higher regard. ...read more.

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