The Narrator In The General Prologue Essay

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The Function of The Narrator In The General Prologue
In General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales the character of Chaucer as the narrator serves as our guide to the action. Chaucer narrates as if he is in the moment himself, just meeting these pilgrims for the first time, and he makes the audience as though they are right there with him. At other times, though, Chaucer is a narrator who seems to know more than he ought to. For example, he tells us that, when the Shipman wins a fight, he murders the loser by throwing him overboard, or that the Reeve is stealing from his master. Are these really stories people would tell Chaucer when first meeting him? Chaucer also seems to know a suspiciously large amount about each pilgrim everyday lives. At these moments, Chaucer acts much more like an omniscient, or all-knowing, narrator, rather than one who's truly in the heat of the action. The reason for this choice could be that verisimilitude, or making things seem like real life, was not as important to a medieval author as it is to authors today. Instead, the narrator might choose to tell whatever he wants in order to better serve the purposes of characterization. The narrator makes it quite clear that he is also a character in his book. Chaucer creates an ‘alter ego’, a pilgrim called ‘Geoffrey’, who is the naïve narrator of the pilgrimage story, commenting on his fellow-pilgrims, and providing the links which join many of the Tales. This further extends Chaucer’s narrative possibilities, enabling him to open up another layer of opinion other than his own. In the General Prologue, the narrator presents himself as a gregarious and naïve character. Later on, the Host accuses him of being silent and sullen. Because the narrator writes down...

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...eveals insecurities of him in the process while that itself tells us more about the popular culture in this time. Chaucer, along with many of the other pilgrims attempts to place themselves in a socially desirable or even superior position. With the Narrator having the responsibility of articulating the tales to us in a coherent fashion, he might feel pressure to present himself as all-knowing or superior to his companions rather than show us an honest and unbiased point of view. After all, he is telling the story; the Narrator can ultimately choose to tell us whatever he pleases. The Narrator plays the role of telling tales and providing the groundwork for this pilgrimage story, but since his ideas and opinions are designed in such a particular way; he indirectly tells us so much more about not only about the pilgrimage but of this time period’s culture as a whole.

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