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Write an analysis of the description of Alison. What insights do you gain about attitudes to women and social class from this passage?

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Introduction

Alex Young 19th September, 2004 Write an analysis of the description of Alison. What insights do you gain about attitudes to women and social class from this passage? The story of Alison is a typical set piece of courtly romance. This classic example of courtly romance is represented in the description of her appearance and her relationships with John, Nicholas and Absalon. The male attitude to marriage in the time that Chaucer was writing 'The Miller's Tale' was very selfish. It was to produce a male heir and to improve social and economic status. Usually very little sexual activity was indulged in between the husband and wife, thus the young wife falls prey to admiration from other men. Many of the descriptions that Chaucer uses to describe Alison are double entendre descriptions. Chaucer immediately begins with such a description when he writes "As any wezele hir body gent and small". This is a simile which emphasises her slimness, slenderness and her desirability. ...read more.

Middle

But, the monosyllabic tone brings out the harsh truth of Alison really being extremely thin and not curvy at all, and curves are a very attractive quality to a woman. Chaucer finishes the description of Alison's physical appearance by describing her as a flower, which at first seems like a very nice compliment but, of course, there is a connotation which is not so pleasing. "She was a prymerole, a piggesnye". At this point, Chaucer describes Alison as a type of primrose. A primrose is a pretty flower but, the hidden meaning is that a primrose is nothing special. It is a pale colour which could represent Alison's complexion as sickly. Chaucer begins by describing Alison's clothes and adornments as white. "A barmclooth as whit as morne milk Upon her lendes, ful many a goore.". The whiteness of the apron is symbolic of purity and chastity. But, the real truth is that the colour is mundane and dull. ...read more.

Conclusion

Through Alison, Chaucer is parodying the courtly love tradition. Alison is a significant character in that she acts as a portrayal of Chaucer's views on the hollow nature of courtly love. Alison lived in a time when women where subservient to men. They had no power, only men did, and they were only seen as objects of distant desire or to provide the male heir. There was a strict code of behaviour which women and men were expected to abide by but as Chaucer infers this did not allow for natural human instincts, particularly someone as obviously attractive and alluring as Alison. There is no doubt in my mind that Chaucer is describing the type of woman that he is attracted to, and that John, her husband, is the typical type of man that he dislikes. In the final rhyming couplet of the description of Alison, Chaucer states that Alison's demeanour would not be fitting for a relationship with a Lord, which I believe she clearly wants. Her manner of dress is not restrained enough, which is due to her social background. ...read more.

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