The Canterbury Tales

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In The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, the stereotypes and roles in society are reexamined and made new through the characters in the book. Chaucer discusses different stereotypes and separates his characters from the social norm by giving them highly ironic and/or unusual characteristics. Specifically, in the stories of The Wife of Bath and The Miller’s Tale, Chaucer examines stereotypes of women and men and attempts to define their basic wants and needs.

In the Miller’s Tale, the story tells of a carpenter and his wife, Allison and how she is pursued by multiple men. The first man to pursue her is Nicolas, a man boarding with the Miller. When the carpenter is away he begins flirting with Allison in hopes of making love. Originally she refuses, but eventually she gives in to his will. Chaucer seems to be pointing out that women are easily swayed by temptation by showing us that Allison is unable to stop herself from making love with Nicolas. In addition Chaucer is also showing us how disloyal women can by using Allison’s extramarital affair as an example. However this stereotyping is not just limited to women in the miller tale but also reaches men too. Later in the story, Nicolas manages to convince the carpenter that there is going to be a massive flood and that he should hide. However this is all just a lie, which Nicolas is using to get the carpenter out of the way so he can be with Allison. Through the carpenter, it seems as if Chaucer is pointing out that men are generally gullible and easily fooled. The stereotyping continues when Absolon enters the story and attempts to woo the likes of Allison. Absolon is unsuccessful in his attempt to woo her however, and Allison tricks him by pretending to offer him ...

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...en compared with modern day women this is a truly outdated stereotype that carries very little weight if any at all. Chaucer’s work in the Wife of Bath stereotypes women as manipulating, sinful, and yearning to gain power over their husbands. And although not always projected in an entirely negative light, it seems that as a whole Chaucer attempted to create an evil stereotype of women.

In both the Miller’s Tale and the Wife of Bath’s Tale, Chaucer uses his characters and stories in order to project various stereotypes to the reader. Although varying a tad bit throughout the book, the tone that seems to be drawn from the stories is that women are manipulating, sinful, and power hungry, while men are considered gullible and rash. Its through understand and analyzing these stereotypes that we can fully understand what Chaucer’s stories are trying to convey to us.

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