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'One of the best short stories in English.' Discuss Chaucer's narrative skills as shown in the Pardoner's Tale in light of this comment.

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English Literature Essay 'One of the best short stories in English.' Discuss Chaucer's narrative skills as shown in the Pardoner's Tale in light of this comment. The Pardoner's Tale is a direct extension of the personality of the narrator, an overtly moralistic tale that serves primarily to elicit a specific response. It is a particularly shameless tale, a condemnation of avarice that stems from the avarice of its narrator; by condemning the sin, the Pardoner hopes to motivate the travelers to pay the Pardoner to absolve their sins. The character of the Pardoner is omnipresent throughout the tale, which is told in an intimidating oratorical style that intends to create a sense of horror at the consequences for sinful action. Throughout the tale the narrator drifts in and out from the story, as the Pardoner occasionally leaves the plot of the tale to launch into sermons against sin. Finally, at the conclusion of the tale, he reveals the rationale for this authorial intervention, preaching against avarice for the sole intention of selling phony relics to the travelers. The tale is thus less of a fully formed narrative than a performance given by the Pardoner in which he never submerges his presence in the story. ...read more.


The Pardoner, through Chaucer's depiction has no thoughts or feelings (except for the anger aroused by the Host's violent speech, which makes him speechless), no hopes or regrets. He never talks about his motives, except to reiterate drearily that his purpose is ever one. There is no mention of thought or feeling. but only descriptions of action. Chaucer intends to create a character not like the Wife of Bath, but one without soul, feeling, or inner being; a creature of "naked will, unaware of its existence but in the act of will" as Derek Pearsall so validly contends. There is one flicker of awareness of a world which is not an extension of the Pardoner's will. "Yet kan I maken oother folk to twynne From avarice, and soore to repente." (430-31) This gives him a momentary unease, but he does not seem to understand why it should do so, and it fades. It is ironic therefore, that the Pardoner, in seeking primarily to gain acceptance and belief in his words and his relics and secondly to make money does actually do God's work indirectly. He enforces the moral lesson inadvertently by the very example of his own shamelessness. ...read more.


Chaucer draws upon the classical debate about whether a deed can be termed a 'good action' if it is done for bad reasons, with evil intentions. It is a question which time has not answered and thus provides us with an excellent story today, and more so if taken in the Medieval context. Chaucer's intelligent style and use of imagery, rhetoric and are all evident within the Prologues, yet this comment is loaded with irony, another device that Chaucer uses often in the Prologues and tales. The irony presents the fact that while he himself is "a full vicious man"; he can still tell a moral tale. It also underlines the fact that while some people do see the difference between right and wrong, they often still make the conscious decision to behave in accordance with the latter, but shows us the apparent gulf between what the Pardoner appears to be compared with the seeming perception of himself. The story, in drawing on such moral issues that are accessible to so many and with so many morals and meanings of its own - at the same time having so accurate an account provides us with historical information and depth - shows this 'short story' of Chaucer's to indeed be One of the best short stories in English. Aymen Mahmoud JA4 English Literature/MP ...read more.

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