The Father of English Literature The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer, demonstrates Chaucer’s work and how his writing style impacted English literature. Chaucer displays a unique technique to use when introducing and describing characters. He judges characters based on their personality and beliefs, instead of their social class and wealth.
Chaucer also uses humor to expose and attack corruption and controversial matters of the 14th century. By doing so, he can introduce topics to his readers in a different view that is more appealing and easier to understand. It is very evident that in The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer is no fan of the Catholic church and their corruption. Chaucer uses the character the Pardoner to mock and mimic Catholic priest. He makes sure to use humor and irony whenever he does so, to introduce humor and interest to the readers. He also goes about attacking the Catholic church in a careful way to prevent a dangerous reaction coming back to hurt him. The way he does this is he disguises his words and beliefs by using characters and humor to try to hide the fact that he is attacking the Catholic church.
In the “Pardoner’s Tale”, Chaucer introduces a character that shuns greed and gluttony, the Pardoner even states, “And ate also and drank beyond their might, Whereby they made the Devil’s sacrifice” (Chaucer 5). This character is ironically a person who is overwhelmed with greed. This character uses his influential religious powers to lie to others in order to gain income. It mocks and symbolizes the church officials in the 1400’s. Chaucer even goes a step farther in his tale told by the Pardoner.
Chaucer tells a story of men who seek out death, these three men find gold under a tree and conspire ways to be greedy and take all the gold for themselves. It results in all three of their deaths, and Chaucer uses gold under a tree to symbolize the gold as the root, and greed as the evil. This all together reveals Chaucer’s belief that money is the root of all evil. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer also displays his opinion on the position and roles of women in the 1400’s. In the “Wife of Bath’s tale”, Chaucer tells a story of a knight who raped a woman. This Knight goes to the castle to choose his fate, and instead of the usual tradition of the King sentencing him his punishment, instead his punishment and fate is decided by the Queen.
The Queen tells the Knight that he must find what it is a woman wants most in life, and if he does not he will be executed. The Knight finds that what a woman wants most is to be able to make her own choices and in the end when a woman makes her own choice, everything ends happily ever after. Chaucer used this story to contradict the traditions of society, and show that society would work better if women could make their own choices. Of course, he never comes out and says this, but instead hides his message in humor and in his fictional character’s opinions and beliefs. Chaucer introduces a tale in the General prologue about five tradesmen. Chaucer used these tradesmen to represent the hard working people who were being taken advantage of by the corrupt higher class.
Chaucer mentions the formation of guilds formed by these hard working tradesmen in order to band together and rebel against the wicked greedy upper class. He demonstrates a way to fight corruption and greed taking place in the upper class that can work for any time period. This being on his belief and message that without the hard work of the middle class there can simply be no upper class. The upper class is absolutely dependant on the hard work and power of the middle class. Once again, Chaucer demonstrates a way to insert his beliefs and opinions without directly showing his opinions and beliefs. Society during the time of The Canterbury tales is very different from the society of modern times. Chaucer uses the character the Parson, to preach a sermon on how life was not made to enjoy, but instead to achieve salvation and immortality. Chaucer uses the Parson to state that one’s life is not to be measured on their achievements based on earthly things, but instead of their achievements when it comes to heavenly subjects.
In this tale, Chaucer demonstrates what people should focus on, and how distractions and the enjoyments of life will only injure one’s spiritual salvation and throw one off their trail to immortality. Chaucer lived and wrote The Canterbury Tales in a very interesting time period. He lived in a time period that would not even be recognizable in modern times, but his messages and ideas introduced in the 1400’s can be applied to life and society for hundreds of years to come. It is also important to recognize that in the time of The Canterbury Tales, if someone spoke out against the pattern of society, it could result in harsh punishments and even execution. Chaucer had to be very careful in how he wrote his words and introduced his ideas, and that is why his writing style shaped and is still present in English literature.
In The Canterbury tales, Chaucer inserts his opinions through his characters on many topics. The topics he mainly focuses on are the rise of the middle class, the role of women in the 1400’s, and most importantly the corruption of the church. It is evident in almost all of the tales that the church of Chaucer’s time was corrupted by evil. That is the main reason that Chaucer ended The Canterbury Tales with the preaching done in the tale of the Parson. This tale being at the end keeps Chaucer’s most important belief fresh in the memory of the readers, and sums up what Chaucer believed would benefit the readers the most. The last tale sums up Chaucer’s desire for writing The Canterbury tales and it is his message that he wanted to be remembered and passed on for centuries.
In life, people are born, they live, and then permanently pass away, but strong words and ideas such as Chaucer’s, will live on forever.