In the prologue, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is about the pilgrimage of many different characters to Canterbury. Chaucer writes about the characters’ personalities and their place on the social ladder. The Monk and the Parson are examples of how Chaucer covered the spectrum of personalities. The Monk is self-centered, while the Parson cares for the sick and poor.
In The Canterbury Tales, the Monk acts like he is part of the upper class of society. He is very tan, he likes to hunt, and he has horses. All of these traits are symbols of wealth and prestige. “His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.” (P 120 line 211) This shows that the Monk spends a lot of time outside, only men who are wealthy can afford to relax or hunt outside. Hunters are not considered holy men because they kill for entertainment and pleasure. The common man spends his day working for what little wages he can earn. The Monk also had horses, which is another sign of wealth. “This Monk was therefore a good man to horse;” (p 120 line 193) Very few men in that period had enough time to learn and ride horses. All of these extravagancies are against the oath the Monk took for the Church.
The Monk was also lazy and disliked working. Monks, in general, are hard working and are willing to help the less fortunate. The Monk also ignored the monastic rules set up by St. Benedict.
The Rule of good St. Benet or St. Maur
As old and strict he tended to ignore;
P 120, lines 177-178
This shows that the Monk is interested in the pleasures of life, and not his duty as a monk. He is worthless in the eyes of Chaucer and he dislikes the Monk very much.
The Parson was a poor man who gave what little he could to the other poor people of his town. He knew the teachings of the Bible and Christ, and preached to whoever was willing to listen. He followed the Bible in life and he believed that a priest must be trustworthy. He led by example for all of the other people in town by not having a rich life and still living happily.
This noble example to his sheep he gave,
And it was from the gospel he had caught it.
(P 129 Lines 506-507)
The Parson never looked for recognition or glory for his choice of lifestyle. He was very low key and was willing to help someone no matter what the weather conditions were. The Parson was very generous with what little he had.
Giving to poor parishioners round about
From his own goods and Easter offerings.
He found sufficiency in little things.
This proves again that he is good-natured and loving. He is a Good Samaritan and has a compassionate soul.
In the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer shows preference toward the Parson because he makes him a wholesome, well rounded, sympathetic person. The Monk, on the other hand, is disliked tremendously by Chaucer. Chaucer displays him as self-righteous, pompous, and ignorant toward the feelings of others. Chaucer shows his opinions by writing about the characters’ lifestyles and their personalities