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Essay on The Pardoner's Tale of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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The Pardoner's Tale of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales


Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a structured novel which starts with the narrator obtaining twenty traveling companions at an inn. They are all traveling to Canterbury to pay homage to a saint. On their way, these colorful individuals decide to make the trip more bearable by having a story telling contest. Each will tell one story on the way to Canterbury, and one story on the way back. The winner will be decided by the inn's host, who is accompanying them. Unfortunately, it seems Chaucer never got to finish the novel so there is only one story from each character. However, he does a wonderful job at depicting a lively picture with each description of the characters and their tales. Even though most of them are well portrayed, the one character that is best developed is the pardoner. He sells the Church's pardons to people who have sinned and seek absolution. He also preaches against sins, mostly avarice. Ironically, in the prologue to his tale, he admits being guilty of that sin and is quite proud of it. His tale is also about greed; in it, Death takes three greedy men to their early graves. Observing Chaucer's description of the pardoner, the pardoner's own confessions about himself, and his tale, one can observe how they are all appropriate characterizations of the pardoner.

The general prologue sets up the structure under which the novel will develop. The narrator meets his new companions and describes each one, some in more detail than the rest. When he begins to write about the pardoner, he tells of his physical appearance.
'In driblets fell his locks behind his head
Down to his shoulders which...


... middle of paper ...


...ide, but on the inside, too. He sells pardons to cleanse people's souls of sins and carries around 'sacred relics' in his bag to show to people who will pay to see them. In the prologue to the pardoner's tale, he admits to being a hypocrite; preaching against sin yet being a sinner himself. He also confesses his detachment from his congregation; he cares not for how such a big contribution of money will leave them in financial ruin, as long as he has the money. In contrast, his tale is the complete opposite of his personality. It is about three men who are punished by God for being avaricious, gluttonous and overall sinners. Yet, it still fits the pardoner's character because of how it is used: to make people feel guilty and give money to the pardoner. Overall, even though the pardoner is one of the worst human beings in the novel, he is indeed the most fascinating.


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