Thursday, November 18, 2010

Uses of Imagery in "The Wife of Bath"

While reading "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale", many instances of imagery are apparent. Geoffrey Chaucer uses the narration of the wife of Bath to describe how men marginalize women unfairly. When speaking of her fourth husband, the wife says, "By God on earth, I was his purgatory/ for which I hope his soul lives now in glory,".

Earlier, she told of how he kept a mistress, therefore her allusion to maintaining a purgatory on earth was most likely revenge for his unchaste ways. Later, she goes on to say, 
"There was no one, save God and he, that knew/ How, in so many ways, I'd twist the screw,". In these lines of prose, the wife means that only she, her husband and the Divine Creator knew how she punished him for his adultery. Perhaps she did subtle things to make him sorry for what he had done, but they were humiliating nonetheless.

Lines and imagery like the ones mentioned give insights into the character the wife of Bath. While being married to her fourth husband, she described herself as 'young and full of passion'. Her naivety faded once she discovered her lascivious husband, and she hardened herself to make him suffer for hurting her. Overall, the insights from imagery in the story develop a plot that negates the chauvinistic view of women in society at the time. As a reader, the imagery evokes feelings of humor at the wife's approach to life, marriage and even virginity.

Greenblatt, et al. (Eds.). (2006). Teaching with the Norton Anthology of English Literature (8th ed.).New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company

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