The Canterbury Tales: The Reeve's Tale
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Voyage and Return
Anticipation Stage and 'Fall' into the Other World
John and Aleyn travel to the mill after bragging to everyone that they will prevent Symkyn, the miller, from cheating them of corn.
Two naïve young clerks think they can easily get the better of the miller who cheats all his customers. They propose to their headmaster that they be allowed to take a trip to the mill to watch their corn being ground, and brag to all their friends that they will achieve success where older and wiser people have failed. Little do they know that getting the better of Symkyn is harder than it might first appear.
Initial Fascination and 'Dream' Stage
John and Aleyn arrive at the mill and tell Symkyn they plan to watch the corn as it's ground.
The two clerks are jovial and care-free when they arrive at the mill, thinking they've got everything figured out. One clerk proposes to watch the corn as it goes in the hopper, or grinding mechanism; the other will watch it when it comes out. This way they'll guarantee that Symkyn doesn't cheat them of corn, right? Everything seems to be going perfectly for these two.
Symkyn releases the clerks' horse, causing them to have to spend the whole day chasing it and giving him the opportunity to steal some of their corn.
The clerks have no choice but to chase after their horse, despite knowing that their absence from the mill will give Symkyn the perfect opportunity to steal from them. Catching the sexually-excited stallion proves to be extremely difficult, and by the time it's over the clerks know they've failed at protecting their corn. Not only that, but it's gotten so late that now they have no choice but to spend the night with the devious miller, giving him more opportunities to cheat them.
John and Aleyn take recompense for their stolen corn by having sex with Symkyn's daughter and wife. When Symkyn finds out about it, the three begin to fight.
The nightmare in question here is actually for Symkyn's wife and daughter, as the two clerks sexually assault them. When the large and aggressive Symkyn awakes, however, John and Aleyn are in serious trouble.
Thrilling Escape and Return
John and Aleyn beat Symkyn unconscious then leave his property in a hurry, picking up their stolen corn on the way.
The clerks manage to defeat the "monster" in the form of an aggressive and enraged Symkyn, whom they leave unconscious on the floor of his house. Making their exit in a hurry, they pick up their stolen corn thanks to some information from Symkyn's daughter, Malyne. Having fulfilled their boast after all, John and Aleyn will have a happy homecoming.