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Canterbury Tales – Comparison of the Miller’s Tale and the Knight’s Tale

A Comparison of the Miller’s Tale and the Knight’s Tale

It is common when considering The Canterbury Tales to discuss how some tales seem designed to emphasise the themes of others. Two such tales are the Miller’s Tale2 and the Knight’s Tale3.

At first glance these two tales seem an incongruous pairing. The Knight’s Tale is told by an eminent person, is an historical romance which barely escapes a tragic ending, and its themes are universal: the relationship of individuals to providence, fortune and free will. The Miller’s Tale is told by a drunken “cherl” (MT 3182), is a farcical fabliau, and has “a plot, not themes”4. And yet, in my opinion, there is much to be gained by reading the Miller’s Tale with the themes and characters of the Knight’s Tale firmly in mind. The juxtaposition of the Miller’s Tale to “the Knight’s Tale makes its very lack of significance significant”5.

These two tales have seemingly opposite doctrines, and yet, it seems to me, both have the same object: to encourage us to survive the misfortunes and uncertainties of life as best we can. The Knight’s Tale tells us to “maken vertu of necessitee”(KT 3042) while the Miller’s Tale expects “every wight” to “laughen at this stryf”(MT 3849).

The Miller’s Tale is designed to “quite” (MT 3127) the Knight’s Tale. It certainly matches it in quality of composition, but ‘repays’ the other tale mainly through its use of comedy. Humour throws new light on the characters and actions of the preceeding tale.

The folly of the carpenter in the Miller’s Tale is by no means the only comic device used by Chaucer to create humour, but it is central in many ways. “He is, in theory, the ‘authority figure’ of the tale, and it therefore opens with him; …

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…e Chaucer: Third Edition (Oxford: OUP, 1987), The Miller’s Tale. All line references to the Miller’s Tale will be given in text, preceded by the initials “MT”.

3. Larry Benson, The Riverside Chaucer: Third Edition (Oxford: OUP, 1987), The Knight’s Tale. All line references to the Knight’s Tale will be given in text, preceded by the initials “KT”.

4. Helen Cooper, Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales (Oxford: OUP, 1989), p. 101.

5. Cooper, p. 101.

6. Cooper, p. 99.

7. Robert Miller, “The Miller’s Tale as a Complaint,” Chaucer Review, 5 (1970), p. 147-160. This from p. 150.

8. Derek Pearsall, “The Canterbury Tales II: Comedy,” In Piero Boitani and Jill Mann (eds), The Cambridge Chaucer Companion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 125-142. This from, p. 131.

9. Cooper, 99.

10. Pearsall, p. 129.

Fire and Heat Imagery in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

Fire and Heat Imagery in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

The essence of any true magnificent piece of literature is not what one can see in words. It is what one can see behind the words. It is through the symbolism and imagery found in works of literature that a reader can truly connect with the writer. Charlotte Bronte epitomizes the spirit of the “unread but understood” in her Victorian work Jane Eyre. There have been numerous essays and theories presented examining the complex symbolism and imagery used by Bronte in Jane Eyre. Much of the imagery she uses concentrates on passion, fantasy, and the supernatural. In this essay I will examine Bronte’s use of fire and heat imagery pertaining to Mr. Rochester and Jane’s love relationship.

To begin, fire imagery permeates Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre’s relationship from beginning to end. Since the passionate love that Rochester and Jane first held was sinful, it was accompanied by images of fire and burning. This can possibly be an image of hell. For example, when Rochester was trying to convince Jane to stay with him despite the fact that he was married, he described what he expected her reaction to be, “I was prepared for the hot rain of tears…but I err…your heart has been weeping blood.” This image of hot rain and weeping blood lends itself to an image of punishment. Similarly, when Jane showed signs of fatigue, he carried her in his arms up to her room, holding her tightly. As a result of his “sinful” touching, Jane’s senses were dulled, “all was cloudy to my glazed sight.” Yet when he placed her in front of the fireplace to warm up, she felt revived, “I felt the reviving warmth of a fire” Here the fire cleansed Jane of her stupor. It awoke her conscience to what Rochester …

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…ns, “it was a just judgment on him for keeping his first marriage secret, and wanting to take another wife while he had one living.” Thus, Jane and Rochester reunited and each proved to be reborn, Jane after undergoing her own final period of personal and spiritual growth, and Rochester after facing his vices and rescinding his sinful nature.

In conclusion, the concept of fire used by Charlotte Bronte in Jane Eyre cleanses, foreshadows, strengthens, and reawakens both Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Bronte tempered the passionate nature of her novel by continuously revealing that heated sinful emotions only lead to ruin. Both Jane and Rochester were subjected to emotional and spiritual purgatory for their immorality. They were allowed solace only after achieving spiritual rebirth.

Work Cited

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Dodd, Mead

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