Canterbury Tales Essay - The Assertive and Vulnerable Wife of Bath

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The Assertive and Vulnerable Wife of Bath

Society was different in Chaucer's time; males dominated and women were suppressed. The manipulative and destructive nature of women was emphasized by men. Much like Eve in the Bible, women were blamed for the 'downfall of man'. Through the Wife of Bath, Chaucer investigates the difficulty of self-realization for a woman in this restrictive environment. The wife of bath, Alison, represents antifeminist stereotypes and searches for happiness and a place in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, Alison is never in tune with who she really is as a woman. Chaucer uses a series of ironies to eventually show that under her seemingly confident guise, there hides the soul of a vulnerable, lost
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Her weakness in that she contradicts herself reveals that subconsciously, she is unsure of herself and of what she really wants. While consciously, she appears firm and strong, disapproving of the anti-feminists, her lack of understanding of herself results in failed attempts to earn herself respect and rights from a narrow-minded society.

Apart from denouncing the harsh views that the anti-feminists have of women, Alison, too, rebels against the expectation that women should be treated as a mere possession of their husbands. Alison expressly resents the males of her time who control women, seeking freedom, "We cannot love a husband who takes charge of where we go"(267). Therefore, ideally a marital relationship should be reciprocal. Ironically though, Alison seeks for complete domination, "For mine will be the power over all his life/Over his proper body, and not he"262. She abuses her first three husbands, and states that the husbands are her "slaves"(262). Looking upon marriage as a method of gaining money and power, Alison coerces her husbands into handing over their property in return for sexual favors. "I never would abide/In bed with them if hands began to slide/Till they had promised ransom, paid a fee"(269). She uses the men, "They'd given me their treasure/And so I had no need of diligence/or showing reverence" (264). Alison looks down upon her husbands. Ironically,

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