Comparing the Power of Fiction in Canterbury Tales and Lord of the Flies

Comparing the Power of Fiction in Canterbury Tales and Lord of the Flies

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The Power of Fiction Revealed in Canterbury Tales and Lord of the Flies

In accordance with E.M. Foster's analysis of a character's hidden life, a work of fiction gives us a better insight into the theme of a novel. As E.M. Foster said, "Fiction is truer than history, for it is in fiction [and drama] that we can understand the hidden life of the characters." History is the study of past events. It is based mostly on fact, accepted concepts and stories. Fiction is a literical genre in which the author writes about untrue events. The telling of historical events in a novel limits a reader's ability to expand on the text because it is a text based on textual references from the past. Fiction, on the other hand, sets no boundaries for the reader. In fictional literature the reader can expand and point his own picture in his mind without having to question his own creativity. In "The Canterbury Tales" by Geoffrey Chaucer, the use of type casting in the direct and indirect characterization of the pilgrims shows us their true personalities. While Chaucer uses characterization to reveal his characters. William Golding in his novel, The Lord of the Flies writes through allegorical writing which uses symbolism to portray a bigger meaning than the story's plot.


In "The Canterbury Tales" written by Geoffrey Chaucer, the pilgrims are characterized in two different ways to reveal their real intentions. "The Pardoner's Tale" is told by a Pardoner who is characterized in the prologue as selling fake relics. He than in his own tale goes on to denounce greed. By stating the pardoner's own selfishness it contradicts his own religious state in life. A Pardoner forgives others sins, but one with already too much load on his soul would not be able to do that. The Pardoner thinks himself to be a very holy and righteous man but does not realize that his own greed is seen by all the pilgrims after he admits selling fake relics. That makes his sermon of how "Greed is the root of all evil" a total hypocrisy. Chaucer purposely chose a member of a religious community to write a tale on because he wanted to write about unfaithful who sold indulgences to people.

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Those religious abused their powers given to them by the Church for their own financial gain by using people's blind faith as a tool. In turn the whole setting of a religious pilgrimage adds further insult and shame to the Pardoner's character. By writing about the events and problems of his time period, Chaucer provides great insight into a time when corruption ran rampant in the Church. That called for grave help. Chaucer's seemingly first hand account provides a window of knowledge to readers many generations later. That very personal window gives us a lucid interpretation which is not just truer but more entertaining to read than the cold impersonal pages of a history textbook. That close insight on people is also seen in William Golding's The Lord of the Flies, when pre-adolescent boys crash on an unchartered island during WWII and must struggle between civilization and savagery.


The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a prime example of a piece of literature that shows us the point of view a history book can not. The overall theme of the novel is "civilization versus savagery" and it utilizes several symbols to portray that deeper meaning. The three main characters: Ralph, Piggy, and Jack are used to portray the three states of mind on the island. Ralph being the leader and charismatic one represents the "good" or sane mind. Jack, on the other hand, depicts the "evil" side who gives into his own selfish desires. Finally, Piggy is the logical and intellectual one that calls for order. Although he is the most qualified one to be leader his appearance makes him a mockery. Each of the three symbolically plays their individual roles to portray man's struggle between good and evil. What happens on the island can even be parallel to human behavior in general. A history book would be unable to touch upon human behavior because it is too broad and skeptical of a subject. The feelings of the person are irrelevant to the event.


In conclusion, both The Lord of the Flies and "The Canterbury Tales" are excellent examples of literature that is truer than history. By telling it in a way a history book would never and expanding on a time period by talking about its people, William Golding and Geoffrey Chaucer have shown us the bigger picture in each of their novels. Thus doing exactly what E.M. Foster said fiction was.

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