Analysis of "The Pardoner's Tale" by Chaucer
Numerous stories have reminiscent qualities of other stories because basic human qualities do not change, even over a vast period of time. No matter what time they are written, many stories are somehow basically similar to each other. Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” has many reminiscent qualities of the Chaucerian genres, especially the ones used in Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale.”
The writing style of Tolstoy is reminiscent of Chaucer’s style. Both Chaucer and Tolstoy use apostrophe, where a belief or idea is portrayed as a character. In “The Pardoner’s Tale” death is a character. “There came a privy thief, they call him Death.” Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” has the devil as a character. “But the Devil sitting behind the stove had heard everything.”
Chaucer’s “The Pardoner’s Tale” and Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” are examples of an Exemplum, a Chaucerian genre, where the story is a sermon that illustrates a known moral. Both have the moral that greed kills and is the root of all evil. In “The Pardoner’s Tale” the men have an honest goal, to find and kill Death. While they search they find a mound of gold, forget their goal, become greedy, and kill themselves. In “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Pakhom, the main character, also has a humble and honest goal, to get more land to support his family. No matter how much land Pakhom acquires the desire for more is too overwhelming. Finally, he has a chance to get as much land as he can walk around in a day. His greed overwhelms him and he dies from exhaustion. If the main characters in both stories aren’t so greedy, they can become extremely rich—however, due to greed, they lose everything. “’I’ve been too greedy, I’ve ruined the whole thing, I won’t get there by sundown.’”
There is a mystical character in both stories that is responsible for guiding the main characters to their “opportunity.” In “The Pardoner’s Tale” an old man, a sort of emissary of Death, tells the three friends where to find Death—which leads them to the gold. The man knows that when the friends find the gold they will kill each other out of greed. In “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Pakhom is visited twice, once from a peasant and once from a merchant. Both of these men tell Pakhom a way to get more land. Later these two people turn out to be Devil, who knows that Pakhom will try to acquire too much. “Towards that grove. I left him there to-day under a tree, and there you’ll find him waiting.” “It was no longer the merchant, but the peasant who had come on foot from the south long ago. Then Pakhom saw that it was not the peasant, but the Devil himself.”
The main characters ignore warnings that greed will be the end of them in “The Pardoner’s Tale” and “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”. In “The Pardoner’s Tale” they know what their friends are thinking—kill the other two men and keep all the money. In “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Pakhom is warned by a dream where he sees Devil looking over his dead body because Pakhom tries to acquire too much land. In both cases however the men are too stubborn to take these warnings seriously; therefore they all wind up six-feet under. “Thus these two murderers received their due, so did the treacherous young poisoner too.” “Horrified, Pakhom woke up. ‘The things one dreams,’ he thought.”
Many qualities are reminiscent of Chaucerian genres in Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Even though there is a vast time difference between many books, there are still significant similarities because human nature does not change to any considerable amount.
Article name: Analysis of "The Pardoner's Tale" by Chaucer essay, research paper, dissertation