Study Guide

The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Shadow of Confusion

Chaucer describes the Pilgrims gathered at the tavern in Southwark.

So many of Chaucer's pilgrims are not what they appear or what, in a perfect world, they would be. The Pardoner pretends to be a holy man intent on saving souls with his relics; in reality he's a money-grubbing liar. The Friar should be living a life of poverty and chastity; instead he's living the high life with rich people and whores. The darkness that is oppressing the pilgrims is no one person or figure, but rather a general state of sinfulness.

Pressure of Darkness

Various conflicts erupt between the pilgrims on the course of the pilgrimage: The Miller gets drunk and interrupts the Host's proposed order of tale-tellers; the Miller's tale offends the Reeve, who tells a tale that offends the Miller. The Pardoner and the Summoner take cheap shots at one another and tell tales to offend each other.

The pilgrims' pride and sinfulness brings them into conflict with one another as the pilgrimage progresses. The 'felaweshipe' that is the goal of any group of pilgrims eludes these ones despite the Host's and others' best efforts to ensure it, because these pilgrims' sinfulness puts them into a state of division.

State of Joyful Union

This doesn't really happen in The Canterbury Tales because the work is incomplete. The "resolutions" of the various conflicts that occur between the pilgrims are not really resolutions at all, just containment of anger that's still present because sinfulness is still present.

Since the pilgrims never arrive at Canterbury, which is where their sins would be cleansed, they never reach a state of joyful union. The whole point of a pilgrimage is to receive absolution for your sins and thus, perfect union with God. This perfect union with God would also lead to perfect union with your fellow Christians. The pilgrims would at last be able to achieve perfect fellowship. But since we never get to see them reach Canterbury, we never get to see them in a state of joyful union.

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