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Sammy McMillan
Mrs. Heesch
Honors British Literature and Comp. G4
11 September 2018Character Analysis in The Pardoner’s Tale
The Pardoner’s Tale presents the tale of hypocrisy and rotten nature of the Flanders community as seen from the perspective of the Pardoner. The tale highlights an allegory of the old man and three rioters, describing the greed and social dysfunction of the Flemish people through these characters. The Pardoner’s sermon topic revolves around the relationship between greed and evil, as can be seen by the old man’s action of showing the three rioters a grove full of gold. The old man is physically weak and wishes that death would free him of his burdens contributed to his wasting health. He furthermore conveys a message of wisdom contrasted with a tale of greed and evil engagements as well. In essence, the old man is also hypocritical by sending the three rioters to their path of death despite his experience about the consequences of money and evil. The three rioters are the perfect example of evil activities and wickedness which is highlighted through their love for visiting a local tavern. The tavern represents evil and a range of sins which include gluttony, drunkenness, and lechery. The Pardoner describes the rioters as young and easily indulged into earthly pleasures by their outright love for money depicted by how quickly they shifted from finding death when they discover gold. The promise is however hypothetical as the three rioters have a hidden agenda: “In this affair, and each defends the others, and we will kill this traitor Death, I say! Away with him as he has made away with all our friends. God’s dignity! Tonight!” (Chaucer 95-98). The three rioters represent greed and indulgence in evil as well as untrustworthiness. In summary, the three rioters are a perfect example of greed as the root of all evil which is presented through their ongoing drive for corrupt engagements.

There is a compare and contrast scenario of the old man and the three rioters since they both evoke the spirit of manipulation and hypocrisy. Both the characters highlight the idea of a hypocritical society even though the three rioters are less trustworthy than the old man. The rioters set out to find death but, in the process, cut short the assignment after finding gold as directed by the old man. The expectations were that they should continue with their search for death even if they found the gold. The rioters are motivated by greed for money to afford a lavish club life which disguised their original assignment: “The wickedest spoke first after a while. “Brothers,” he said, “you listen to what I say. I’m sharp although I joke away. It’s clear that Fortune has bestowed this treasure to let us live in jollity and pleasure” (Chaucer 175-179). The evil committed by the three rioters satisfied their need for a social rotten life due to their morally corrupt life. The old man acted in hypocrisy by showing the three young man the gold because he knew from experience that money (greed) is the root cause of all evil: “To find out Death, turn up this crooked way towards that grove, I left him there today under a tree, and there you’ll find him waiting. He isn’t one to hide for all your prating. You see that oak? He won’t be far to find” (Chaucer 160-164). Even though he may have wanted to punish the young man for disrespecting him, it was evil for the old man to send the young men to death by directing them towards the path of death which is symbolized by the gold.

The Pardoner’s Tale represents in a comprehensive sense the outcome of greed and evil which is ultimately death. The characterization of the old man and the three rioters encompass the evils which are prevalent in the Flanders community as seen from the Pardoner’s narration. Despite that both the old man and the young men had similar characteristics representing hypocrisy and untrustworthiness, the three rioters define the severity of being untrustworthy. The motives to commit evil is explained by the needs and experiences of the characters, that is, the rioters wanted to satisfy their lavish and greedy life while the old man purposed to teach the rioters a lesson.

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