The Miller's Tale Analysis

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Alisoun’s Descriptio: Attire and Satire The wench wife of the Carpenter in the Miller’s tale has one of the most detailed descriptions of all the characters of the tales. Chaucer creates such a vivid portrait that the reader can picture the shape of this young wife’s body, her face, the structure of her eyebrows, her hairline, the smell of her breath, and all of her coquettish mannerisms. The reader assumes the male gaze: the perspective provides a slow head to toe description, lingering on details around the breasts and hips. This gaze is not peculiar for the misogynistic medieval society, as a majority of authors were men. What I found most curious is the meticulous description of this young lady’s entire outfit from her cap to her high laced shoes. In the General Prologue, it is evident that Chaucer is a master of thorough description, but within the tales I have read, the costume detail for women is somewhat sparse. I began to ponder the meaning behind the extensive portrayal of the entire outfit of the “popelot” from the Miller’s Tale (3254). …show more content…
Initially, I hypothesized that the decoration of the “coler” was merely a device to draw the viewer’s imaginative gaze to the cleavage of the seductress. An intentional indication of her wantonness. My theory was supported in Hodges research on embroidery. For wealthier women, smocks were typically worn underneath other layers of garments, and to have an exposed smock with blatant decoration suggests “intrinsic temptation and sinfulness” (Friedman, qtd. In Hodges.) If she was a member of a higher estate her smock would be designed to be beneath her outer garments, therefore, it would have been superfluous to decorate this undergarment. This ultimately indicates that Alisoun intended to flaunt her smock, which is part of Chaucer’s tactic for exposing her