As he continues to present opposing viewpoints through his mixed company of pilgrims, Chaucer presents a story about the journey of religion up to this point and what it was intended to mean for the average person. Rather than being an individual journey of spiritual enlightenment, Chaucer suggests that the experience of religion is something that must be shared with others and explored from a variety of approaches before one can claim they have experienced religion. Chaucer’s conception of religion as a journey shared by many people is evident in the idea of the journey itself, in which all travelers are brought to the same level despite other social constructions; the activities of the journey as each individual is required to tell two tales as a means of passing the time; and the lessons learned within these tales as they are often placed side by side with an opposing viewpoint.
The fact that the journey begins for all of the individuals contained within the story as a pilgrimage places the reader’s mind in the context of religious concerns and brings all of the players to a level playing field. They are on their way to visit the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket, a saint who was venerated for standing up for the rights of the church against the might of the royalty in a battle between the secular and the religious. In this, the saint was following his own interpretation of what the church stood for and a willingness to share that vision with others, explore it and make concessions where possible. This is the idea that Chaucer seems to be trying to communicate within his journey. The various individuals who undertake the pilgrimage come from a wide variety of backgrounds, such as the knight and the miller, the wife of Bath and the prioress, each coming from varying social and economic class systems with differing levels of involvement with ‘urban’ society as it existed at that time. In ...Show more