Essay on Vision, Truth, and Genre in the Merchant's Tale

Essay on Vision, Truth, and Genre in the Merchant's Tale

Length: 1443 words (4.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Vision, Truth, and Genre in the Merchant's Tale

 
  In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which gives them greater powers of perception but also causes their expulsion from Paradise. The story creates a link between clear vision and the ability to perceive the truth‹which, in this case, causes mankind to fall from a state of blissful ignorance to one of miserable knowledge. In the Merchant's Tale, vision and truth do not enjoy such an easy relationship. Vision is obstructed at both the metaphorical and the literal level, and the subversion of the fabliau genre challenges the idea of truthful representation. The Merchant's Tale destabilizes the notion of representation itself, problematizing man's relation to truth.

 

Chaucer uses a very strange metaphor to describe January's quest for a wife. The teller likens the old knight's mind to a mirror that has been set up in a common market, catching the image of every maiden who passes. January undertakes a near obsessive mental cataloguing of all eligible women:

 

Thanne sholde he se ful many a figure pace

By his mirour; and in the same wyse

Gan January in with his thoght devyse

Of maydens which that dwelten hym bisyde. (ll. 1584-7)

 

The more familiar the reader is with the conventions of the fabliau genre, the more likely he is to feel that something is not quite right. First of all, the life of the married couple before marriage and the story of how that marriage took place is not properly the subject of fabliau at all‹and here Chaucer devotes considerable space to it (Pearsall 4/12). Second, there is something so discomforting about the old man's search‹his mind becomes a ...


... middle of paper ...


...y reveals that there was an act of sexual intercourse between May and a man. But the child becomes an opaque sign because the true identity of the child's father would be a mystery‹not only for the reader and January, but for the adulterers as well.

 

Works Cited and Consulted

Chaucer, Geoffrey. "The Merchant's Tale." The Canterbury Tales: Nine Tales and the General Prologue. Ed. V.A. Kolve.  New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989.

Fichte, Joerg. " Genre in The Merchant's Tale."  New Views on Chaucer: Essays in Generative Criticism. Ed. William Johnson. Denver: Society for New Language Study, 1973. 9-16.

Levy, Bernard. "The Meanings of The Merchant's Tale." Chaucer and the Craft of Fiction. Ed. Leigh Arrathoon. Rochester, MI: Solaris, 1986. 385-403.

Pearsall, Derek. The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer: A Critical Biography. Blackwell, 1992.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Effect of the Second World War on The Cinema of Japan Essay

- Arguably the most world changing event in history, the Second World War had a huge effect in cinema around the world. These effects can are perhaps most apparent in the cinema of Japan as the country was impacted greatly by the war. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent capitulation of Japan changed the morals and the psyche of its people almost completely leaving a big mark in Japanese culture which is quite evident when looking the films made in the country during the post war period....   [tags: history, heroic tale, sacrifice]

Powerful Essays
1169 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on The Dark Comic Vision of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

- The Dark Comic Vision of The Winter’s Tale       Although Shakespeare’s plays are generally categorized according to their adherence to the formulaic definitions of histories, romances, comedies, or tragedies, there are several plays that complicate the task of fitting neatly into these groupings. Many literary critics, in fact, have singled out a handful of plays and labeled them ‘Problem Plays’ because they do not fall easily into any of the four categories, though they do loosely adhere to the predicated ‘formula’ of the genre under which they appear in the Folios....   [tags: Shakespeare Winter's Tale Essays]

Powerful Essays
1748 words (5 pages)

Essay about The Search for Truth in A Tale of Two Cities

- The Search for Truth in A Tale of Two Cities           "Since before the ancient Greeks, mankind has striven to discern and define truth, a noble if somewhat arduous task"( Swisher 118). Even modern society, despite losing so many of the old, "prudish" morals of preceding generations, still holds truth as one of the greatest virtues and to find truth in life, one of the greatest accomplishments. Authors such as Charles Dickens reflect this great desire to seek and find truth, using many varying mediums to express their opinions or discoveries....   [tags: Tale Two Cities Essays]

Powerful Essays
2656 words (7.6 pages)

Folk tale Genre Essay

- Folk tale Genre The greatest treasure of every nation is its language. Fairy tales are part of the oral traditions of literature all over the world. The fairy tale is one of the forms of the people's linguistic arts where life and social system are reflected. Folklore, mythology, fables, tall stories, and other classic tales have been handed down, generation through generation. Countless treasures of human thought and experience still accumulate and live in the world even after thousand of years....   [tags: essays papers]

Free Essays
876 words (2.5 pages)

Essay The Vampire Tale as a Sub-genre of the Gothic

- The Vampire tale As a Sub-Genre of The Gothic Here I will expound upon how the vampire tale is undoubtedly a sub-genre of the Gothic Genre. I will also attempt to tackle the tricky question of whether the vampire tale falls within the subsection of the terror gothic or the horror gothic. In order to emphasize my points and observations I will refer to two scenes in the short story appropriately titled The Vampire, by John Polidori. In the Vampire several elements of the Gothic are readily discernible....   [tags: European Literature]

Powerful Essays
991 words (2.8 pages)

The Elements Of The Film Genre Essay

- As stated by English professor and film historian, John Belton, “In the cinema, genre is a term used to designate various categories or motion picture production. Major movie genres include such types of films as musicals, comedies, action and adventure films, Westerns, crime and detective films, melodramas, science fiction and horror films, gangster films, and war films” (123). During the course of this class we have studied a majority of these genres. Recently, we took a look at the development of silent film melodramas (a drama accompanied by music)....   [tags: Film, Film genres, Musical film, Film genre]

Powerful Essays
1270 words (3.6 pages)

Essay on Truth Is The Pursuit Of Truth

- Truth: Scientific Fact, Philosophical Perception, or Simple Fiction Humans are in the pursuit of truth within their every endeavour, however, truth evades us. We search for meaning in every relationship, every happening in our lives, every worldly event, for each and every waking moment. We search. Truth, as defined by Wikipedia is, most often used to mean being in accord with fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. Truth may also often be used in modern contexts to refer to an idea of ‘truth to self,’ or authenticity” (Wikipedia, 2015)....   [tags: Truth, Religion, Epistemology, Belief]

Powerful Essays
1365 words (3.9 pages)

Finding the Truth in Gretchen Moran Laskas’s The Midwife’s Tale Essay

- Finding the Truth in Gretchen Moran Laskas’s The Midwife’s Tale The prologue to Gretchen Moran Laskas’s novel, The Midwife’s Tale, begins with her narrator protagonist, Elizabeth, telling readers, “Mama always said that most of being a good midwife was in knowing the family history. Not just the birthing story of any given woman--although that was a good thing to keep in mind--but the whole history.” Assuming the “whole history” is a thing possible to know in the first place, a dubious aim in itself, Moran Laskas’s novel ends up reading as a sort of family history: at times exultant, heartbreaking, occasionally comic, and more than once bone-chillingly grim....   [tags: Midwifes Tale]

Powerful Essays
1271 words (3.6 pages)

Cycle of Life Explained in A Vision Essay

- Cycle of Life Explained in A Vision         William Butler Yeats' accomplishments as a writer are varied. From his in depth and philosophical poetry to his alarming and enlightening A Vision, his work has been widely read by English scholars and religious philosophers. Although A Vision is extremely hard to understand completely, Yeats' overall concept is easy to fathom. What happens where Christianity leaves off. What is the cycle of life, and where does time begin and end. These are all questions that mankind has continually asked since the beginning of recorded time....   [tags: Vision Essays]

Free Essays
2021 words (5.8 pages)

Genre Essay

- Genre Genre is a term that is used to classify or describe a type or form of literature. While this sounds like a simple concept, it in actuality is a very complicated classing system. The reason for the complication is that literature does not always follow the typical characteristics set up by that type of genre. For example, one of the characteristics in the genre of tragedy is that there is a tragic hero, who is in a position of power. In the classical tragedy this is true, as can be seen in Sophocles' Oedipus Rex because the tragic hero is Oedipus, who is the king of Thebes....   [tags: Expository Definition Essays]

Free Essays
964 words (2.8 pages)