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Analysis

Literary Devices in The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

In a story that's all about sex, it's not too much of a stretch to say the hot poker with which Absolon brands Nicholas's butt is a phallic object, a symbol of a penis. It's even less of a stretch...

Setting

It's important that this story is set in Oxford because this was (and is) a university town with a large student population. Since only men could attend university in medieval England, it's likely...

Narrator Point of View

Although our narrator prefers for the most part to let the characters' actions, appearance, and dialogue speak for themselves, he does on occasion provide us insight into their minds. For instance,...

Genre

If you want to impress your friends and teachers, tell them that "The Miller's Tale" is a fabliau. This was a genre of medieval literature originated by court poet-musicians in southern France. It...

Tone

As we mention in "Narrator Point of View," the narrator of "The Miller's Tale" usually describes characters and events without adding much personal insight or involvement. By refraining from bringi...

Writing Style

(See the discussion of iambic pentameter in the "Writing Style" section of our guide to "The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story.")What on earth do we mean by "earthy"? The best exampl...

What's Up With the Title?

This is the tale the Miller tells to "quite," or respond to, "The Knight's Tale."

What's Up With the Ending?

A lot of people regard the end of "The Miller's Tale" as the cleverest of Chaucer's endings, if not one of the cleverest endings of all time. Why? Well, a lot of it has to do with how Nicholas's si...

Tough-o-Meter

Reading Middle English can be tough, and it takes a lot of practice, but "The Miller's Tale" is a great place to begin. For one thing, it's a very straightforward story. The narrator is basically j...

Plot Analysis

A carpenter named John lives with his much younger and very pretty wife Alisoun in the university town of Oxford. To make a bit of extra money, he boards a poor young scholar named Nicholas in the...

Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Comedy

This plot analysis relies upon our acceptance of Nicholas as the "hero" and Alisoun as the "heroine" in the story, character role identifications that are debatable, as we discuss in the "Character...

Three Act Plot Analysis

We are introduced to John, his wife Alisoun, and their boarder Nicholas. Nicholas and Alisoun begin to have an affair, and Alisoun catches the eye of the parish clerk Absolon.Nicholas and Alisoun t...

Trivia

The fact that the rooms in John's attic have locks on their doors is a sign that John is affluent; such locks were uncommon and were considered the "latest thing." (Source)One of the tubs John acqu...

Steaminess Rating

"The Miller's Tale" is about sex, sex, and more sex. If characters aren't having sex, they are either desperately trying to (Absolon) or worried that others are (John). You've also got several obsc...

Allusions

Cato, Distichs (119-120)Ptolemy of Alexandria, Almagest (100)Noah and the Flood (410, 426, 431)Solomon (421)
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