Narrative Complexity in the Canterbury Tales

Narrative Complexity in the Canterbury Tales - Caputo 1...

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Caputo 1 Kyle Caputo Professor Donoghue British Literature I 4 October 2007 The Narrator’s Complexity in The Canterbury Tales The narrator of The Canterbury Tales eludes simple classification: he seems to fade into the objective woodwork of the tales and conceal himself as a mere reporter of events, yet intermittently he makes his individual presence substantially felt. In lines 732 to 748 of the General Prologue, the narrator intervenes to reflect on his dedication to truth and the overall question of auctorial sincerity per se. Through his profound exploration of the sincerity and irony manifest in the narrator and the characters he describes, his criticism of the societal and religious status quo, and the narrator’s transparency and expansiveness in social vision, Chaucer crafts his narrative voice and the passage as a whole into an integral component for comprehension of the work at large. The revelations made by the narrator in this specific passage thus summarize and pervade the thematic constitution of The Canterbury Tales , and aid in an understanding of the narrator’s role and complex identity. One of the numerous methods through which the narrator convolutes his identity is his use of extreme irony and varied sincerity in the abovementioned passage. Within the passage, the narrator demonstrates a wavering sense of earnestness toward the reader and a high degree of irony between the tenets the narrator claims he abides by within The Canterbury Tales and his actual behavior in the tales. Even the intelligence of the narrator is thrown onto unstable grounds: at one point he claims his “wit is short” (748) yet just beforehand he places himself on an auctorial pedestal with Plato and Christ, asserting, “Crist spak himself Page 1
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Caputo 2 ful brode in Holy Writ, / And wel ye woot no vilainye is it; / Eek Plato saith, who so can him rede, / The wordes mote be cosin to the deede” (741-44). The narrator effectively appeals to these traditionally wise figures, of which Plato cannot even be read and understood by the entire
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Narrative Complexity in the Canterbury Tales - Caputo 1...

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