Character Analysis of The Wife of Bath of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

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Character Analysis of The Wife of Bath of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Chaucer opens with a description of twenty-nine people who are going on a pilgrimage. Each person has a distinct personality that we can recognize from the way people behave today. He purposely makes The Wife of Bath stand out more compared to the other characters. In Chaucer’s “General Prologue,” the Wife of Bath is intentionally described in an explicit way to provoke a shocking response. Her clothes, physical features and references to her past are purposely discussed by Chaucer causing the reader to wonder how well she fits the rules imposed by Christian authorities regarding womanly behavior. Women were categorized as saints or sinners by their actions according to Christian tradition. There were two women who represented the sinner or the saint. Eve caused the downfall of all men “ supposedly” whereas the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, symbolized purity. The Wife of Bath is a headstrong bold woman of her time. She shows off her Sunday clothes with evident pride, wearing ten pounds of cloth, woven by herself under her hat.Her clothing symbolizes to the reader that she is not timid or shy and also shows off her expertise as a weaver..

Chaucer discusses his words to describe the Wife quite distinctly. His descriptions of her facial and bodily features are sexually suggestive. The features that Chaucer pays attention to describing Alison should be noticed. In the “General Prologue,” Chaucer's description involves her physical appearance describing her clothes, legs, feet, hips, and most importantly her gap-tooth, which during that time (according to The Wife), symbolized sensuality and lust. He discusses how she is a talented weaver and devoted Christian who goes on pilgrimages often. This may make the reader believe that she is a religious woman, but the reader later sees that the Wife's reason to go on these pilgrimages is not due to religion. She feels that every place should be seen; this has nothing to due with religion. She may also be dedicated traveller, a medieval tourist who likes to sight see. She is a very self-confident woman who thinks highly of herself and her skills as a cloth maker. The ironic part is when Chaucer adds that she has a gap between her teeth. During the fourteenth century, having a gap between the teeth was symbolic of a sensual nature.
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