Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Influence of Stereotypes

These select stories from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales exemplify the imposition of stereotypes on an individual’s perspective. Each story demonstrates a sense of labeling characters through the narrator’s perspective. We, as readers, are thrown into the mind of the narrator, making us completely dependent on the words of the narrator and his opinion of others. As the concept of “trouthe” ironically plays a central role in “Franklin’s Tale” , I slowly begin to question how trustworthy his opinion can be. The narrator states “Heere may men seen an humble, wys accord/ Thus hath she take hir servant and hir lord—/Servant in love, and lord in marriage” (lines 790-3). As a reader we are forced to view the story through the narrator’s eyes, but are we forced to hold the same opinions?

One could argue that while reading the story a reader is entitled to hold their own opinions, but how much leeway do readers have? Chaucer’s attempt to demonstrate equality within a marriage was unheard of during his time. This risky literature is pushing the envelope of the stereotype of marriage. The real question is whether or not Chaucer wanted to write this to disprove the stereotype of his time, or to make an example out of Aurelius and Dorigen. As the story continues, the opinion of the narrator influences the reader’s perspective and outlook on marriage and the people involved.

These readings seemed to fit in perfectly with what was happening at my service learning. Last Monday was my first day at Govans Elementary School. I was introduced to my supervisor, Mr. Pugh. As I entered the chaos of his room, I quickly saw the respect they held for Mr. Pugh, a math teacher. The children began to take their seats, and Mr. Pugh turned on some classical music (to help calm them down and get them into ‘learning mode’). Before Mr. Pugh even began to teach math, he made sure to go over the topic of gossip. He later told me that the children were extra noisy today because of rumors happening within the classroom.

I was amazed to see Mr. Pugh taking on the role of ‘guidance counselor’ but he did a great job of covering the influence of gossip on the life of a student. He also made it a point to use me as an example, and he asked if I would share a story about gossip within my life as a college student. Being placed on the hot seat, all that came to mind was the game “telephone”. I told the students about how the smallest twist of words could lead to a completely different story. The kids really grasped the concept, and Mr. Pugh told me that he would use that example in the future.

After leaving my service learning, I really began to think about the role of gossip in my life. I looked around at my classmates, and the ‘fables’ of their past came to life. I truly began to think about my perspective on my peers, why do these fake stories hold so much weight on how we view each other? When is it acceptable to trust the stories? Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales helped highlight the issue of stereotypes and the concept of trust buried deep within the stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment