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Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale," is a tale told in many cultures and contains numerous archetypal elements: elements that appear in literature in many cultures. The tale, as usually told, is didactic and simplistic. In the Middle Ages, the tale was, in fact, turned into a morality play used to teach the evils of greed. It makes for a great sermon, but not for great literature.
In Chaucer's hands, however, the use of irony transforms it into a classic. Chaucer takes a simplistic, didactic allegory or exemplum and turns it into top-tier literature. Chaucer turns the tale upside-down, so to speak, turning it against corrupt church leaders that would use the tale for their own benefit. In Chaucer's version, the teller is the tale. The tale itself is secondary.
In an essay, you could establish the archetypal elements (a mysterious guide, the number three as in three thugs, death personified, etc.), then demonstrate how irony turns the usual against the speaker (the Pardoner).
You could also add the use of the naive and merry narrator who relates the Pardoner's narration to the reader. The naive narrator takes the Pardoner at his word without authorial intrusion, leaving it to the Host to comment on the despicable nature of the Pardoner's using his story to separate villagers from their money.
The naive narrator is another element that separates Chaucer's version from others.
The points above provide you with a possible argument. I'll leave the thesis writing to you, as it's your assignment.
Since each of the stories was to be judged on the basis of their moral and entertainment value, you might start with how the Pardoner's Tale is a skillful blend of both and well deserving of the free dinner upon the pilgrims' return to the Tabard Inn.
The tale itself is a masterful piece of satire. You might look at the foolishness of youth: their cockiness in believing that they can triumph over death, their disrespect for the old; their weak bonds of friendship. Then you might move to another level to discuss the satire of the Pardoner himself, whose sole motivation for telling the story about the evils of greed is to enrich himself. All the while the naive narrator is praising the Pardoner's sermon, oblivious to the blatant mendacity of the Pardoner. The moral is obvious, but the satire is skillfully done making the story entertaining and satisfying.
I am actually trying to compare the pardoner to his tale and I am having a tinsy bit of trouble coming up with a good thesis. I have a thesis but it isn't good. I want three points that demontrate how Chaucer establishes greed through the pardoner and his tale and the consequences of greed. I dont need a thesis statement from anyone, I would just like help with three points to discuss. The thesis staement I can and SHOULD do myself :) Thanks!
When discussing the pardoner, you can talk about how his career and manipulative sales techniques show his own greed, then discuss how greed is shown in the tale, and perhaps also discuss the pardoner's motives for telling a tale about greed.
The pardoner is one of my favorite characters in The Canterbury Tales because he is so complex. There is a lot to spring from in his description and prologue, and his actions before and after his tale make him even more interesting.
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