Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 1199
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The idea of marriage between a very young girl and an old man has been the topic of numerous comic masterpieces during the history of Western civilization. Most of them portray the manipulative and clever techniques, with which the young wife cheats her old husband. Fabliau is the type of tale, which is built on the assumption: if an old male is stupid enough to marry a much younger female, he deserves to be misled.In this case, poetic justice brings the overbearing husband to his knees. Thus, The Miller’s Tale is a rather common story for its time, and poetic justice or destiny plays a crucial role in it.

John, the old carpenter, married to Alison, the most attractive young girl in the town, and keeps a watchful eye on her. Nevertheless, he commits a stupid act, allowing Nicholas, the manly young student of astrology, to live in his house. John has a mistaken belief that nothing will happen for the reason that he works at home, and his wife is under full control. Nicholas falls in love with the female protagonist. Even though Alison is angry and surprised when he firstly grabs her and resists him, they become attracted to one another in a little while.

Moral Message in the Miller’s Tale

The imaginary tale teller is frequently observed as a belligerent drunk, who consciously breaks the established class order, but Robin the Miller sincerely considers it to be a story about striving lovers that can completely be the Knight’s tale like a noble one (Chaucer 3127). Although, the medieval audience would identify a different message, The Miller’s Tale is filled with the specific perception and sense of justice. Poetic justice assumes that people will finally get what they deserve. Furthermore, individuals have to be punished for their sins and crimes.

Though the story is not meant to keep a moral message to the audience, it ends with an adequate punishment for every hero according to the Miller’s point of view. He thinks that his tale is quite admissible and not derogatory as all the characters acquire what they are worthy at the end: John is belittled for having married and keeping the young girl so limited as well as for his pride and foolishness (the author is certain that it is a natural law); the rear end of Nicholas is seriously burned; Absolon (another Alison’s admirer) is made a bonehead for kissing girl’s buttock.

Only Alison is not punished as the Miller sees no reason to do it. In Poetic Justice in the Miller’s Tale, Paul Olson explains it in the following way: “In the Miller’s Tale, Alysoun becomes what each of her lovers wants her to be: to the lecher, she is mere animal satisfaction, and she springs as a colt for him; for the proud Absolon, she is elevated to celestial regions as the Bride of the Canticum; for the greedy John, she is what he hopes to save from the flood. Pierre Bersuire remarks that a man may have tree “wives”: carnality, avarice, and pomposity. Alysoun serves for all three”. Therefore, men’s misunderstandings of females are chastised in the story. In such a way, a rough kind of poetic justice is expressed. Instead of Christian morality, the teller supposes that his story conveys the poetic justice concept with his own mediaeval outlook.

A Small Revolt Against the Oppressive Social Order

Glenn Burger in Chaucer’s Queer Nation believes that the Miller is used by Chaucer for giving a choice for the readers. The tale puts the person who reads into the Miller’s place, giving some responsibility to the reader at the same time and letting him/her to enjoy a small revolt against the oppressive social order. However, the Miller himself does not feel shame since he considers that there is nothing incorrect in his actions.

The Miller’s first bad impressions are strengthened by the Reeve. The Miller’s blamelessness makes a contrast: his tale is an innocent story as he supposes while the Reeve feels hurt by it and later lunges in his own story. They are dissimilar characters, and Chaucer emphasizes this difference. The Miller believes that his tale must not abuse the Reeve. It is underlined in the line 3154 when the Miller states that he does not call the Reeve a deceived.

The Concept of Poetic Justice in a Tale

Everything in the tale is practically karmic and certainly not an exact consequence of someone’s original sin. In Chaucer and the Subject of History, the story is seen as “an apparently flawless orderliness,” with proper punishment for every character because of caused offense, which is contrary to the Miller’s morals (Patterson 259). Lee Patterson thinks that the Miller is a person, who considers the world to be a self-organized power. He sees the universe as a utopian realm, in which there are reactions to the deeds, and all follow the accepted order where individuals are destined to be chastised for their wrongdoings simply on the grounds that they merit it.

There is no punishment for only Alison because she objects when Nicholas makes her an offer of sexual context. The Miller believes that the main heroine protested sufficiently in order to be released from the karmic punishment of others because females were considered as a source of uncontrolled sexual energy in the Middle Ages. Moreover, Alison has already tormented from the jealous old husband.

Linda Lomperis indicates the absence of appropriate Alison’s description in her article, as well as points out that the objection of Alison against Nicholas is extremely theatrical. The Miller does not perceive the infidelity of Alison to John to be a problem as he thinks that it has to be predicted in this case. John neglects the advice of Cato that one should “marry someone like himself: people wed according to their condition, for youth and age are often at odds”. Moreover, after all, Alison decides to become Nicholas’s lover entirely on her terms. She does not commit any other wrongdoing except betraying John. However, this offense serves as punishment for John because of his absurd efforts to control wife.

The concept of poetic justice is implemented in the plot of tale. John may not be such villain as Absolon, but he is an example of comedy figure. The hero puts his faith in his neighbors and partner just to his advantage.

The author uses the character of the Miller to be protected from reaction to his tale. The Miller is just seen as a foolish drunk, but the story’s complexity contradicts this projection. According to the development of events, which take place in the story, the teller obviously has more intelligence than readers are supposed to accept. The tale is deftly constructed with the concept of justice and balance.

In The Miller’s Tale, each character made mistakes, and Chaucer shows the mirror of human nature, not insisting that depicted human behavior provides a thoughtful comment on our life. Nevertheless, the author notes the important things: the temporary dominance of instinct over mind, the risk of marriage between young and old persons, and the attraction of young people to one another. The next comic resolutions such as the victory of unreason, the alternation of failure and success, and the punishment of stupidity grow out of them.

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