What is the theme of the story? Explain.What is the theme of the Miller's Tale?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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In the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Miller is the second one to narrate the tale (after the Knight). In his tale, there is a poor, old carpenter named John who lives in Oxford with his beautiful and very young (18 years old) wife named Alisoun and a scholar of astrological sciences, Nicholas. Nicholas falls in love with Alisoun and one day when John is out for some work, Nicholas begs Alisoun to love him, even grabs her from her hips and finally manages to convince Alisoun to sleep with him. Alisoun is sceptical about this idea for John is highly possessive and protective about her. But Nicholas thinks he can fool him. Another scholar Absolon also falls for Alisoun. But she refuses his proposal as she loves Nicholas.  Nicholas convinces John that according to his readings, a massive flood will drown everything. To protect themselves, they should hang three tubs to the ceiling and when flood comes, they cut the rope and float with water. But at night, after John falls asleep, Nicholas and Alisoun come down and make love. Meanwhile, Absolon comes and asks Alisoun to kiss her. But all he gets is a kiss of her ass and fart in face from Nicholas. He takes revenge by burning Nicholas ass to which Nicholas cries "help! water!" John thinks it’s the flood and cuts the rope, and breaks his arm. No one in the neighbourhood believes his “flood”story and even Alisoun and Nicholas act as if he is mad. Everyone laughts at John and he comes out as the ultimate loser.


Miller is drunk, his tale is somewhat indecent and makes fun of the courtly love bawdily. Chaucer has decided a tale that depicts Miller's character perfectly. The miller's tale parodises the courtely love tradition of the knights into something farcical. Moreover, through the readings of the scholar and understandings of John, there is also a satire projected on the blind Catholism followed at his times.



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