Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Miller’s Tale”, is a humour-filled story where morality and social constructs take a back seat. Miller is a drunk, traveling with a group of people that hold morality in high regard so when Miller is about to tell the tale, he informs his company that it will be distasteful for them. Then he continues by telling the tale of John a carpenter who has a beautiful wife named Allison. John’s apprentice Nikolas and Allison are seeing each other behind John’s back. Allison is also being pursued by a young Parish clerk Absalon but she is not interested in him. The story continues with John being unaware of his wife and apprentice’s affair and it ends with the Parish branding Nikolas which makes him scream in agony waking up John (Chaucer).
In the poem “To his coy mistress”, written by Andrew Marvell; he talks to his lover and tells her that if time was on their side; they would not have to worry about the norms of the society and he would show her, his affection from one corner of the world to another. He states further that she deserves all his love and he knows that one day her beauty will wane then when the time comes she will be taken by death. She will not be able to hear his songs for her and her body will be eaten by maggots. So she should not wait as while she is still youthful and beautiful she should give herself to him (Marvell).
In the story “Araby”, James Joyce tells a tale of a boy whose name is never told. This boy is infatuated with the sister of his friend Mangan. He thinks about her all the time then one day the sister asks the boy if he would be going to the bazar called “Araby” as she could not go herself. He says yes, to impress her and promises to bring her something pretty from the bazar. After that he is distracted the whole day, his master gets angry with him as he makes mistakes. He rushes home to get money from his uncle who does not come home until nine. When he finally gets the money, he leaves for Araby but when he reaches it he sees that all the shops are closing down. As the last light in the market goes down he realizes that he blindly followed his vanity and this thought makes him angry (Joyce).
In Miller’s tale, the author has carefully constructed a humorous setting from the beginning. Miller who is the narrator of the story is a drunk and the tale he shares is morally indecent. The pastor kissing Alison’s behind and then branding Nikolas’ behind; was inappropriate but filled with humor. In contrast to Miller’s Tale both “To His Coy Mistress” and “Araby”, lack tonal humor and their main themes also seem to be focused on other themes other than humor. So both the “Araby” and “To his coy mistress” are not humorous but the only similarity all three stories have is that each is centered around a woman. These women are the reason the events of the story occur in the first place. Based on the analysis of these two works it is hard to say that today’s literature still has humor in contrast to the literature of the past. These works focus on other themes like love, coming of age, marriage, religion, death, etc. which makes these works much more morbid than humorous. Modern literature tends to provide social, religious and political commentary which can be written humorously and otherwise.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Miller’s Tale. 1970.
Joyce, James. Araby. 1914.
Marvell, Andrew. To His Coy Mistress. 1681.