Hyperbole And Symbolism In Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales

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By simple definition, a miller is someone who keeps a mill whether it is corn or small grains. In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer defines a miller as a member of the degraded lower class, with questionable morals and low manner who is a dealer in grain. Chaucer takes the literal definition of a character and expands it using stereotypical inferences from the medieval time period. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer utilizes various literary techniques including symbolism, hyperbole, and juxtaposition to help characterize pilgrims such as the Miller. The application of these devices helps to develop the collection as a whole by defining and contradicting stereotypes within society. Chaucer uses symbolism to expose something about the pilgrims on this journey. When characterizing the Miller, Chaucer applies many symbols to define him. For example, the Miller’s prologue frequently compares his attributes to a sow. Such as in lines 570 to 572, “And, at its very tip, his nose displayed/ A wart on which their stood a tuft of hair./ Red as the bristles in an old sow’s ear.” The comparison made between the Miller and the sow indicate how slovenly and disdainful he was. Swine are often associated with filth and disgrace, which characterizes the Miller. Another use of symbolism is found when the Miller is compared to a fox in Line 568. “His beard, like any sow or fox, was red.” This connection can be made because of the way the Miller conducts his work. He is cunning, like a
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