For your second essay you are going to analyze The Canterbury Tales and identify and discuss the relationships between the various storytellers and stories. Compare and contrast the societal values / morality being promoted in each prologue and story set. What are the main values being promoted in each work? Are the same values being promoted in each or are different values being promoted? How is the presentation of these values similar and different? For this essay, discuss at least two sets of stories and prologues. Choose between the Miller and his tale, the Pardoner and his tale, and the Wife of Bath and her tale. In evaluating each story, be sure to consider what we know about the person telling the story; for example, in discussing the point Chaucer is making, don’t divorce the Pardoner’s story from the Pardoner, himself.
Explanation of the Topic
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- A societal value is a principle or quality that most people in a particular culture agree to be of great importance. Examples of American societal values today (NOT necessarily held in medieval England) might include individual human rights, democratic election of government leaders and representatives, financial prosperity, higher education, home ownership, and close family relationships.
- A single word—such as love, religion, government, or money—is usually not specific enough to identify a societal value. Clearly label and define each value you discuss.
- A literary work may reveal a societal value either positively (by approving something that is deemed good) or negatively (by disapproving something that is deemed bad). In the latter case, the societal value is the opposite of whatever is disapproved. For example, if a work ridicules treason (betrayal of one’s country), then it may be demonstrating the societal value of patriotism (loyalty to one’s country).
- A work’s references to a particular custom, topic, or theme (such as to seduction in Sir Gawain and “The Miller’s Tale”) do NOT necessarily indicate that this is a societal value. Clearly explain how the work shows a quality or principle to be a societal value.