In ‘The Miller’s Tale’, Chaucer introduces us to a new character. The carpenter, John, is married to a young woman named Alison. In the beginning of Chaucer’s description about her, we simply know that Alison is young and beautiful, and she may be sexually unsatisfied in her mis-matched marriage, because the large age gap between her and her husband. Throughout the description, Chaucer’s portrait of Alison portrays a young, admirable woman, who is wholesome and peaceful, but can also strive sexual attractiveness. To justify this evidence, Chaucer uses animal imagery to compare Alison’s animal vitality to young animals in a countryside.
When Alison is first introduced by Chaucer, her description is associated with animal and natural similes-“As wezele hir body gent and smal”. Alison’s figure is suggested in the simile of a weasel, and is clearly chosen to emphasize her sexual attractiveness. This also outlines her capability of being sly and escaping many misfortunes. Chaucer also uses similes to symbolize her purity-‘ A barmcloothe eek as whit morne milk’. Chaucer’s intention was to give us readers the assumptions of Alison’s wholesomeness, where she may have been attractive, although she had no means of ‘cuckolding’ John.
As Alison is young , and so therefore still adolescent, her husband bought her many expensive clothes to wear-“Of cole-blak silk withinne and eek withoute”. Chaucer’s presentation of her costly garments depicts her possibility of Alison’s vanity and her possibly being a lady of high maintenance. Chaucer also explores her sexual attractiveness by indicating that her clothes exaggerate her attractive features. For example, just as he outlines the perfection of Alison’s white clothing, he illustrates her eyes as being provocative and distinct-“And sikerly she hadde a likerous ye”, which is very ironic, because Alison’s youthful appearance is interpreted to betray her virginity, but not her image as a sex symbol.
Her accurately plucked eyebrows also asserts her vanity-“Ful smale ypulled were hire brows two”. Alison’s breath was also sweet, and Chaucer compares this aroma to a tasteful drink of honey and ale.-“Hir mouth was sweet of bragot or the meeth”. All these pleasant features of Alison expresses her ability to arouse strong passion, altogh this is also ironic because Alison is supposedly ‘angelic’, and her husband’s jealousy, which has resulted in ‘imprisoning’ her beauty away from prying eyes, has given her no choice of staying faithful to John.
According to her husband’s jealousy, she was always kept at home, away from any men who were attracted to her.-“Jalous he was and heeled hire narwe in a cage”. John kept his wife in restrain because he was threatened by her beauty which was guaranteed to be very appealing to other men. This also implies the truth of her deprivation of a sexual relationship with her husband, giving us readers the ideas that she could possibly buy any means ‘cuckold’ her husband for-“she was wild and yong and he was old’. The only way she could fill her sexual needs was to find another man of her own age, who would possibly gratify her sexual distress. And to prevent this he restricted her from other men, because he was conscious of any sexual relationships outside their marriage.
Again, Chaucer connects wild animal charisma to Alison’s personality. For example she would skip and respond actively to anything that was ‘fun’-“As any swalwe sittinge on a barne, therto she koude skippe and make game”. Not only does Chaucer reveal her similarities of humorous barn animals, he also demonstrates Alison’s likeliness of immaturity, which obviously portrays the typical character of a teenager. Alison is also compared to a young beautiful horse, who is always impatient and full of eagerness-“winsinge she was as is a joly colt”. Chaucer shows us that the presence of Alison may have been delightful and was a good-naured person.
To illustrate this idea, he also relates her to flower’s names. “She was a primerole, a piggesnie”. Flowers are known for their beauty and their heavenly scents, they are also considered as an appreciative gift when they are given to people, so Chaucer may have given s the idea that she is a gift of beauty and she is a darling to her husband and others who are attracted to her. Ironically a ‘piggesnie’ also means a ‘pig’s eye’, so however we may later get to know that she is not really that wholesome, and a being compared to a pig, Alison may have bad habits. This name may also be important to describe her in future problems.
Chaucer’s depiction of Alison outlines an attractive young lady, who is married to a much older man. Unfortunately the imprisonment, of her jealous husband may affect her leisure, although she is seen as an eager and wild eighteen year old girl, who may be competent of sexual affairs outside her marriage due to her absence of sex in her relationship. As readers we do not know until we read further that her ‘cherubic’ and wholesome qualities may be stereotyped. And her animal qualities of a ‘weasel’ may be very beneficial for avoiding mishaps.