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The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale

The Canterbury Tales: The Second Nun's Tale


by Geoffrey Chaucer


Character Analysis

Valerian is the husband Cecilia's family chooses for her. To Cecilia he demonstrates his good judgment and basic moral worthiness when he quickly agrees to the truths of Christianity. Yet Valerian is not content to simply take Cecilia's word for it about the angel she claims protects her. He demands visual proof. Valerian's desire to see is what drives his conversion to Christianity. Accordingly, his faith journey is a much more visual one than any other character's. Before his baptism, for example, an angel appears to him carrying a book engraved with gold letters, from which Valerian reads aloud about the Christian God's sovereignty.

Valerian's role in "The Second Nun's Tale" is as proof of Cecilia's sanctity in her ability to convert even the man who expects a wife but gets a teacher. In persuading Valerian to give up his expectations about their marriage, Cecilia symbolically overcomes the demands of her society that conflict with her Christian faith. With Valerian, moreover, she produces a new kind of family – one based not upon physical, but spiritual bonds, in which one's converts – the "fruit" of one's labors – are one's children.

Valerian Timeline