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Creating Life Through Poetry

            Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales are timeless in the sense that more than 600 years have passed since their creation and their literary rewards are still being sown. A great author seems to rise above time when they have created a masterpiece; their work does not feel the effects of age. Time continues on and the bulk of the work remains unabashed. Certain aspects fade as the world changes, however, literary value is often enhanced. Chaucer did not write The Canterbury Tales strictly to comment on the Medieval times. The characters that he has infused with so much vitality and depth existed during this time where they occupied certain social roles, but that which makes them human also allows for their eternal existence as individuals. Chaucer's beautiful, flowing words and his unique character insight were great innovations relatively unattempted before his time and unmatched since. The fact that nothing like The Canterbury Tales has since come out of modern literature does not detract from its brilliance; it simply means modern literature has failed to match Chaucer's abilities in capturing the true essence of individuality and as a poet. That which has established The Canterbury Tales as the cornerstone of modern literature is undoubtedly Chaucer's ability to create his characters with more than a job and social rank, but with a spark of life. His efforts were more than mere criticisms against stereotypes he had encountered during his life. He wished to capture the essence of man. He wished to uncover the driving force behind human nature. He did so by establishing himself as a narrator recalling a pilgrimage underwent in his past. Chaucer begs the reader "in courtesy, Not to condemn [him] as unmannerly If [he] speak[s] plainly and with no concealings . . . Or else the tale he tells will be untrue." Therefore nothing he says can be pinned against him. Understanding The Canterbury Tales as a whole involves realizing what Chaucer is trying to say, seeing his obsession with the individual, and hearing Chaucer's own overtones.

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