English II- Purple
14 November 2014
The Parson and The Monk in The Canterbury Tales
A decision to break a vow or a promise may end up defining one’s entire life. The famous work of poems, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, follows several pilgrims on their journey to Canterbury from London. Many of those pilgrims are members of the clergy. The Monk makes decisions in his life that are wrong and unwarranted, and he breaks two important vows to God: poverty and obedience. The Parson on the contrary, makes good decisions and follows vows that show respect for God. The Monk and the Parson are both on the same journey, yet there are substantial variations in the way they go about making decisions in their lives. Chaucer especially expresses similarities and differences in their way of living. Chaucer chooses these contrasting characters, the Monk as bad and the Parson as good, in order to display both the dishonesty and purity in the church.
A Monk has several duties to fulfill as a part of the Church community, but he shows his immorality when he does not follow them. He should be fasting, studying, and working hard to the best of his ability along with meticulously copying texts in a monastery. The Monk leads a rebellious lifestyle and enjoys expensive clothes, eating, and hunting in the sun for most of the day. Poverty is a principal vow that clergymen should obey. When vowing to poverty, one will give up all unneeded material possessions and give them to people in need. It will involve not spending any money other then what is required for basic needs. The Monk, against the poverty vow, chooses to show his wealth through beautiful clothing, “sleves ypurfiled at the hond/ with grys, and that the fyneste of a lond,” (193-194). By showing wealth, the Monk is breaking the vow of poverty and adding to church corruption. The Monk has no regards for any rules set by the Church and he spends the days outside. This is known because Chaucer states that, “he [is] nat pale as a forpyned goost, ” (205). A Monk should be rather pale because of all the time they should be inside writing and not getting direct sunlight. The fact that he is not pale shows his inexcusable time spent outdoors and away from Bible work. The Monk feels his time is better spent doing activities outside of the monastery like hunting or eating rather then practicing obedience to implied rules of the Church. Obedience is another vow that a member of the clergy commits themselves to. It requires persistency to follow all Church rules. His ignorance to the vows refers to current figures that do not follow the rules either. Chaucer creates the Monk purely to be misbehaved. In the Monk’s mind, hunting is a part of his life and, “of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare/ was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare,” (191-192). Hunting is his love but by spending most of the day out on his horses and having fun he is negligent to his duties of the Church. The Monk is involved in the luxuries of life rather than being devoutly spiritual. Choosing to hunt for most of the day shows the Monk’s irresponsibility and a flaw that can be related to modern-day scenarios in which people involve themselves in activities that are not approved by the Church. The Monk and the Parson are important to Chaucer’s writings in The Canterbury Tales because they both are such valued church examples, whether they live out their obligations or not.
Contrary to the Monk, the Parson is a loyal figure in the Church, and is chosen by Chaucer to give the reader a sense of what an exemplary church figure should be like. The Monk and the Parson are both linked to the church but the Monk breaks vows whereas the Parson is loyal and does not. He is faithful to God and understands his particular obligations to the church. The Parson fulfills his duties and is, “lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee/ God loved he best with al his hoole herte” (534-535). He loves God