What is the Moral of ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’?

Gender roles are what define love and honor for people. Women have always been lesser in the world while men are at the top. Even though women take care over everything having to do with the household, they aren’t allowed to do anything else. The role of one’s gender should not define who someone should love or how much honor someone should receive.

Gender roles seem to set the bar for what someone can and can’t do. The wife of bath said a lot of what women want, because back then they weren’t able to do anything without the husband’s approval. “Freedom to do exactly as we please, with no one to reprove our faults and lies, rather to have one call us good and wise.” (110-112) She also tells how they were thought back in time. “Others assert we women find it sweet when we are thought dependable, discreet, and secret, firm of purpose and controlled, never betraying things that we are told.” (119-122) Men controlled women back in the 14th century no matter where you were from. Women weren’t allowed to do anything outside of the home, unless it was buying food or shopping. Even then most had to be escorted by the man of the house. Women who have no purpose are not given the time of day by men who are looking for someone to be seen as honorable.

Honor in this world means a lot to men. The knight says “…So poor to start with, so low-bred to follow…” (Chaucer 275) Telling the old woman that she is nothing to honor, even though she’s married to the knight who is of noble birth. His wife follows that by saying “…you spoke of gentle birth, such as descends from ancient wealth and worth.” (Chaucer 283-284) Women who do not come from wealth and beauty are not honored. They are more often than not despised and seen as a nuisance to people of wealth. The wife did not come from wealth and she was not beautiful, so the knight did not want her. He saw her as spoiling his wealthy genes with her poor ones. Honor and love are two very different things and yet they follow each other in status. Love is seen for the young and beautiful. The knight “..married her in private on the morrow and all day long stayed hidden like an owl, it was such torture that his wife looked foul.” (254-256) The knight was ashamed of his new wife because she was not young and beautiful. The knight did not want anyone to see who he had wed. He was ashamed of her, he was ashamed of himself. The knight had no choice but to marry the woman due to her helping him and him agreeing to it. Even though the knight doesn’t like how his new wife is ugly, he still let her decide what she wants to do.

Gender roles tell us what love and honor are supposed to mean but we define it for ourselves. The role of one’s gender should not define who someone should love or how much honor someone should receive. With gender roles still playing a part in american society today it is possible through The Wife of Bath’s Tale worse it was back in the time of the story. Those with money searched for others with money or came from wealthy families to marry. They didn’t accept those of low birth, poor people, to marry. They were seen as honorable when they married to a family of high status. Love wasn’t often why two people got married back then. It was all for the future generations and keeping inheritance in the family.

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