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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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STYLE

As we've already noticed, each tale has a unique personality, which is determined by the character of the tale's narrator. No two are alike. Some are quiet and unassuming, some are loud and carry a punch. Some tales make their point partly through the writing style that Chaucer chooses, such as the Miner's Tale, which is based on a popular raunchy French story form called a fabliau. (See the section on "Form and Structure.") Other tales use a different kind of style altogether, like the forthright speaking style of the Wife of Bath.


Yet somehow Chaucer manages to tie them all together in a loose (sometimes even messy) bundle. He does this by contrasting tone of voice, speaker's attitude, and poetic style from tale to tale. We're struck, for instance, by the sharp contrast between the noble and romantic tone of the Knight's Tale and the bawdy parody of knightly language in the Miller's Tale. Of course Chaucer intends this, just as he purposely opposes the characters of the Miller and the Knight (opposites in attitude as well as social standing). The Miller's intent is to show up the Knight and go his tale one better, but in his own way, naturally.

So the way the tale's characters speak to each other in the Miller's Tale will have a bearing on the way we read the tale, whereas in the Wife of Bath's Tale, say, the characters' conversation isn't nearly as important as the point of view that Dame Alice, our loud-mouthed narrator, practically beats over our heads. So, there's a note after the Wife of Bath's Tale that discusses her point of view and attitude as opposed to the Clerk, who tries to answer her back in a tale of his own.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer-Free Book Notes
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