Who is the old man in the Pardoner's Tale?  Is he death itself?  Give examples from the story?

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pirateteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In "The Pardoner's Tale" the Old Man represents death.  In the story three friends are drinking in a bar (at 9:30 in the morning!) upset that Death has taken yet another of their friends.  Remember that during the time of The Canterbury Tales, the plague was on the minds of his readers, so they would be familiar losing friends suddenly to death.

Throughout the story, the Pardoner personifies Death to represent Death as a person who is killing their friends.  Upset, the friends decide to fo find Death and kill him. When they leave, they find an old man who points them to a tree under which they'll find Death.  Instead, the three men find treasure under the tree and forget about finding Death.  Instead the plot how to get the treasure without anyone seeing them.

They send one of the men to get food, while the two others guard the treasure. The two plan to attack and kill their third friend- who while he's gone to get wine poisons the wine in order to kill them.  When the third man returns, his friends kill him and drink his wine in celebration inadvertently killing themselves.

All three men die, so in essence "Death" claims them.  The three men find the treasure, and their death, because the old man sends them there.  Therefore, the old, clever, man is death.


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