The Canterbury Tales

Main Ideas

Style

Main Ideas Style

In The Canterbury Tales, the writing style of each story varies from ribald and bawdy to delicate and refined, depending on the character who tells the story. Chaucer considers the social class and education of each character to determine the style of their tale, and The Canterbury Tales as a whole functions as a satire that criticizes the estates, or social classes, of the time. For example, the Miller uses crass language, indicating his rude personality and low standing in society. Describing in frank and suggestive language how young Alisoun tricks Absolon into kissing her rear, the Miller shows an obvious tendency toward lowbrow subject matter, which was linked in Chaucer’s day to the Miller’s lack of education and lower-class status. In contrast, the more socially prestigious characters maintain a refined style of storytelling. For example, the Knight—whom all the pilgrims admire greatly—is the very essence of honor, humility, and bravery, and the story he tells centers on chivalry, love, and adventure.