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The character of Alison in 'The Miller's Tale'

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Introduction

What do we learn from Chaucer's description about the character of Alison? The character of Alison in 'The Miller's Tale' is portrayed as the perfect vision of sexual desire. Her husband the carpenter, their lodger Nicholas and the parish clerk Absolon are all in various forms of pursuit of her throughout the tale, while Alison's role is little more than to observe their efforts. Her actions throughout the tale are far from moral, and so her initial description is important in portraying the kind of character with whom the reader is to be acquainted. She is shown as physically desirable, well groomed and enigmatic, in the sense that she is more mischievous than she seems. The description shows Alison to be the embodiment of female sexuality, making the ridiculous actions of the other characters more justifiable. The most obvious aspect of the description of Alison is that she is sexually desirable to men. While it is Chaucer who is writing the description, he is writing as though the Miller is describing her, and through the way in which Alison is described, it becomes obvious that the Miller is attracted to her. ...read more.

Middle

Playing on all the senses makes Alison more real and more enticing, so that the reader too is entranced by her desirability. A lot of the descriptions of Alison are comparisons to animals. It is particularly interesting to note the animals to which she is compared. Her body is compared to that of a "wezele", in that it is "gent and small". While the weasel is an apt simile for a petite and shapely body, it is also an animal renowned for being sly and sneaky, qualities displayed by Alison later in the tale. Therefore a seemingly superficial comparison to Alison's physique makes a far more negative reference to her character. The comparison to a "colt" implies Alison's wild spirit, but with it being a male animal it also reflects on her power. She is also compared to a "kide or calf" in that she can "skippe and make game". This comment also has two levels. ...read more.

Conclusion

Alison is a well groomed and well looked after character, evidently by both her husband and herself. Her clothes are made from fine materials, "a purs of lether tassled with silk", and are extravagant and intricate, for instance her "smok" is "broiden" with "col-blak silk". This shows that her husband treats her well and pays for her to have expensive things, implying that she is perhaps a trophy for him rather than a loving companion. She looks after herself well, indicated by her "ful smale ypulled" eyebrows and "hir mouth" smelling "sweete". In the time in which the tale was written it was far less common to be so well groomed and sensually appealing, making her more and more attractive. The fact that she takes such care of her appearance reveals her vanity, and further implies the extent of her beauty. The description reveals Alison's physical beauty, as well as hinting at the darker sides of her nature. These are both important aspects of the tale as the story unfolds, in justifying the other characters actions and feelings. ?? ?? ?? ?? English Literature - Miss d'Auban Emily Richards - 12B ...read more.

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