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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 1220 words

'The Miller's Tale' - Geoffrey Chaucer - Character Analysis - Alison

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Introduction

English Literature 'The Miller's Tale' - Geoffrey Chaucer Character Analysis - Alison The portrait of Alison is built up with touches of fine detail and vivid colour in her introduction to the reader. Her picture is developed by a succession of striking images that are unusual in their homeliness and exciting too in their appropriateness - the blossom in spring "the newe pere-jonette tree", a newly minted gold coin "noble yforged newe", a "wezele", a "kide", a "calf" and young "joly colt". The use of such imagery creates the portrait of a lovely young girl, both attractively and richly dressed in black and white, and through her description she is made to live and move with a warm sensuality. Chaucer introduces Alison, the "yonge wyf" of the carpenter, through her physical attributes and clothing, withholding her name so that she becomes an object of femininity for the reader. He describes her as having a supple and sinuous figure by likening her body to that of a weasel's, emphasising her sexual attractiveness. The comparison of Alison to a weasel hints at the plot of the story, implying that she has a sly nature, which Nicholas later exploits.

Middle

Again, Chaucer makes reference to Alison's clothing and accessories and talks of how a "purs of lether", that was beaded and tasseled with silk, hung from her girdle, hinting once more at the expense of these accessories and the implication that Alison married John for his money. Chaucer goes on to claim through the Miller that no man could imagine Alison, calling her a "popelote", a, derogatory comment indicating her to be a plaything for men, and a "wench", which hints at her being available. The shininess of her skin is claimed to be brighter than a "noble yforged newe". From here it is Alison's personality that is centred on and the reader is told of how she sings as "loude and yerne as any swalwe sittinge on a berne", that she liked to dance and also could "play as any kide or calf". In Chaucer's description of Alison, he accentuates her qualities that can be comparable with young animals, such as a kid, a calf and a foal. Similarly, in Absolon's wooing of Alison, he likens her to a "faire bryd".

Conclusion

She is capable of being both sarcastic and insulting, uses common phrases such as "Jakke fool" and though Alison doesn't have much to do in the accomplishment of Nicholas's scheme, admittedly, she plays her part well when fooling John. What the two heroines do have in common is their beauty and ability to provoke passion. Whilst Emilye's beauty is more conventional and likened to beautiful flowers, Alison is assimilated with animals. Alison can be recognised as the binding component of 'The Miller's Tale' acting as a catalyst to the events involving sex and humour, as she brings all of the characters together in the tale and acts as a parody of 'The Knight's Tale'. Although a catalyst, she is also there for purposes of decoration since the men listening to 'The Miller's Tale' would have undoubtedly lusted after her. Though she plays the part of the young wife ill-matched in marriage, the classic woman figure in fabliaux, lacking morals and compassion, she is outwardly respectable; however, she doesn't hesitate at the offer of having harmless fun with Nicholas. To conclude, it is apparent that Chaucer used Alison effectively in order to convey many different ideas and themes in just one character.

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