The Primal Description Essay

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Man is fierce, man is strong, man is noble, man is simple, and man is powerful. So what separates man and animal? There isn’t a lot except the mere fact that man is man and man is laced with imperfections and sins. This is no clearer than in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The animal imagery in The Canterbury Tales blurs the line between human and animal. Throughout The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses animal diction and imagery to portray both positive and negative qualities of medieval society. On many occasions, Chaucer depicts society and those within it, as simple and degrading animals. For instance, the Nun’s Priest Chaucer also uses animal characteristics to portray different physical attributes of his pilgrims. To create a clear picture of each pilgrims physical features Chaucer uses different animal diction. Chaucer describes the Miller’s “beard, like any sow or fox, was red” (18). Simply stating that the Miller’s beard was red is not as vivid as comparing his beard to a sow or fox. Chaucer also describes the Pardoner’s hair as “rat-tails” (21), his eyes as “bulging eye-balls, like a hare” (21) and his voice as “the same small voice a goat has got” (21). All of these descriptions add to the vividness of the pilgrim’s appearance. Chaucer uses animal descriptions in the prologue to depict certain aspects of the pilgrims’ individual personalities. To add to the personalities of his characters, Chaucer contrasts common animalistic traits to that of the pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury. Chaucer paints a picture of the Friar by describing “how he romped / Just like a puppy” (10). Drawing for the reader the image of the Friar running around and playing as boisterously as a puppy, is Chaucer’s method of mocking the

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