Comparative: Greed and Corruption in “The Pardoners Tale” and “A Simple Plan”

Both Geoffrey Chaucer in “The Pardoners Tale” and Sam Raimi in the film “A Simple Plan” composed moral tales exploring the concept of greed and corruption. Both composers suggest that a person’s good morals can be easily corrupted by the power of greed; both composers explore the fatal consequences of greed and corruption which affirms the importance of a morally sound society.

However, Chaucer, composing in a medieval context communicates that greed and corruption may be fostered by a lack of material comfort or wealth suggesting that moral standing comes from deep, religious foundation while Raimi composing within a contemporary timeframe, conveys when physical conditions are inadequate, the temptation to be greedy is increased, this saying that moral code formed in a secular society where the boundaries can shift according to the situation. The study of both the differences and the similarities between these texts is essential in achieving an understanding of these issues explored.

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Despite their different mediums both composers emphasise that greed challenges virtues such as loyalty, respect and trust , both composers examine the human condition where we struggle with moral issues. Chaucer’s fourteenth century poem “The Pardoners Tale” is influenced by the Pardoner’s role within the church and the abuse that is prevalent challenges the hypocrisy of individuals within the church community. This is evident in the skilful use of irony in lines 916 to 1918, “And Jesus Christ, that is our soul’s physician. So grant you to receive his pardon for that is best; I will not deceive you”.

This highlights that Chaucer positions the responder to experience opposing feeling towards the pardoner, the irony is more evident in the fact that while the pardoner appears to be fully aware that he is a scoundrel, the doom from which he is saving others also over hangs him, yet he is not considering it to be his fate, in this point the pardoner has a moment of truth where he acknowledges the reality of this spiritual path but he reverts back to his pursuit of greed and tests the impact of his tale on his listeners by attempting to sell his false relics.

This is further amplified through his effective use of animal imagery in lines 556 to 557, “thou fallest like a stuck pig” which suggests that greed and corruption lowers a person’s morals and in affect can make a person seem to act no better than an animal. Chaucer cleverly positions the responder to see that a person may have good morals but greed can easily corrupt a mind, and person can therefore lose any sense of loyalty, respect and trust. The implications greed can have on a person may cause them to take part in irrational, unusual behaviour that can almost seem to be actions that of an animal.

Similarly, the idea of greed can cause moral people to become immoral is also explored by Sam Raimi in the twentieth century film “A Simple Plan”. Raimi’s representation of greed and corruption is clearly influenced by the context in which he composed. This saying that secular society is concerned with the affairs of this world that is temporal and challenges the value of greed. This is evident in the sequence where Sarah is being framed in the bookshelf.

Here he skilfully uses an extreme close up to give the responder the appearance that nothing has changed, but in reality because of the greed that has overcome the characters life is vastly different. This is further emphasised by his clever use of voice over in the scene where Hank is in the mill and it is his voice talking to show the retrospective narrative from Hanks viewpoint explaining the events and giving the appearance that nothing has changes but in reality life has vastly changed and reflects the impact of greed and corruption. This effectively positions us to get a sense of the evil and life changing feelings greed can cause.

Both Chaucer and Raimi infer we all have the potential to be evil and corrupt. However, while Chaucer says greed and corruption has the potential to abuse good will, and is set in a spiritual setting, they are on their way to Canterbury to visit a shrine, Raimi insists that greed and corruption encourages evilness in all its forms saying that good, simple people become immoral. Chaucer composed during the fourteenth century where corruption within a church which advocates honesty, Raimi composed in the twentieth century where secular society is concerned with the affairs of this world that is temporal.

Chaucer explores the idea that the tale corrupts, that they begin as bad people but begin to get worse until it leads to death in The Pardoners Tale. He cleverly uses emotive language in order to manipulate the responders, it is a blunt, brisk powerful narrative that positions the audience to feel the same emotions that those of the tale are feeling and gets a sense that you are going on the journey of corruption. This effectively positions the responder to get the strong, confusing emotions they are feeling and makes them feel as though they are involved in the situation.

In contrast, Sam Raimi demonstrates that the responder becomes complicit in the corruption. This is evident through his successful use of extreme close up in the scene where the fox and the crow are seen as predators. This reflects the idea of death and cunningness that comes from the stereotyped characteristics of the animals, and how the simplicity of the characters later is corrupted with evil morals. Raimi is positioning the responder to accept the fact that a person’s good morals can be corrupted by greed and can cause evil intentions.

While Chaucer points out that people that are already that of evil will be easily tempted by greed. In their representation of greed and corruption Geoffrey Chaucer and Sam Raimi alert the responder to explore the fatal consequences of greed and corruption which affirms the importance of a morally sound society. However, while Chaucer conveys that moral standing comes from deep, religious foundation, Raimi suggests moral code is formed within a secular society where the boundaries can shift according to the situation. Both perspectives are valid and relevant despite the differences in their composing contexts.

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Comparative: Greed and Corruption in “The Pardoners Tale” and “A Simple Plan”. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from