Piers Plowman and the Last Election

The book, Piers Plowman, is filled with allegorical figures that teach the readers morals and instruct us on the ideal ways of living. The strategies that the author, William Langland, uses to teach us these morals and values vary considerably. In the first chapter, or Passus I, Langland describes an allegorical figure to tell us about the concept of truth. In the poem, The Last election, the author, John Haines, also uses strategies to describe to us the concept of truth.

The purpose of this essay is to compare and contrast the formal strategies used in William Langland’s Passus I from Piers Plowman, and the formal strategies in John Haines’ The Last Election. Now, the strategies that each author has chosen to use may have affected the meaning in which they aretrying to describe. Does Langland’s use of language relate to the Haines’ themes or ideas? How do Haines and Langland define “truth”? Passus I uses many different types of formal strategies to describe to us the concept of truth.

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Because Piers Plowman is a poem, it is definite that there are some literary techniques which are obvious to note, such as the exhaustive use of alliteration. For example: “Taught them through the Trinity how Truth may be know, and to be obedient to his bidding – he bade nothing else. ”(Passus I, Line 109-111). The alliteration of this quote adds to the imagery of the phrase. It also emphasizes the emotion being expressed. Another technique used by Langland is the allegory. The concept of truth is described through an allegory.

In lines 85-91 in Passus I, he quotes: “When all treasures are tried, Truth is the best. I call on Deus caritas to declare the truth. It’s as glorious a love-gift as dear God himself. For whoever is true of his tongue, tells nothing untrue, does his work with truth, wishes no man ill, he is a god by the Gospel, on ground and aloft, and also like our Lord by Saint Luke’s words. ” (Passus I, Lines 85-91) Through the dreams of Piers Plowman, Langland uses this method multiple times throughout the book. However, here in Passus I, Langland demonstrates the reality of the truth allegory.

Langland uses it as a literary vehicle while implementing the theme of Christianity; he steps us through the visions of Piers Plowman’s dream. These visions themselves present an actuality that Piers Plowman must journey through in order to find out the true ideals. That ideal is truth, which is glorified above all else. Langland believes truth is something to live by; it’s living with integrity, and never practicing deceit. This is something that Langland stresses throughout all of Passus I. Using the his literary techniques, he tells us about truth and how it’s the ideal way to live by.

Langland continues to mention that there are many oppositions to truth, such as Lucifer, and falsehood. But Langland keeps stressing this major factor: TRUTH! “When all treasures are tried, truth is the best. Let unlearned men be taught this, for learned men know it, that truth is the trustiest treasure on earth. ” Langland’s repetition of the key term truth recalls the memory of the dreamer back in first few lines of Passus I, where he saw the Tower of Truth. We have seen Langland’s use of literary techniques, and language to structure his definition of truth, but does it relate to Haines’ themes or ideas?

Do the two meanings correlate in someway or another? Haines’ definition of truth is similar to Langland’s in the way that the truth is in opposition with a corrupt system that demands for lies, and slander. Haines’ is very direct in this poem. He suggests things we should do in order to keep truth intact in our lives. For example, in the final stanza of the poem, he writes “Each subdued and thoughtful citizen closes his door, turns off the news. He opens a book, speaks quietly to his children, begins to live once more. (The Last Election, stanza five, lines 21-25). It’s very clear that Haines’ is telling us to ignore thepropaganda, or falsehood, we hear on the news. The politicians he talks about are false reflections of what we want to hear. Throughout the poem, Haines’ is repeating the word “no”. He keeps repeating this because he wants to show the readers that there is something wrong. “No more conventions, no donors, no more hats in the ring; no ghost-written speeches, no promises we always knew were never meant to be kept. ” (The Last Election, Stanza Three, Lines 10-15).

Haines is emphasizing his campaign to rid the world of politics of their lies, and slander by his use of repetition. The whole poem is about aiming the concept of truth, not only on the politicians, but on society as a whole. In stanza five, he tells us to ignore the propaganda. But, in stanzas one through four, he states that the politicians must also conform to a world of truth. “Even the president admits he has nothing new to say; it is best to be silent now” (The Last Election, Stanza Two, lines 8-10). Haines is being direct with his audience.

His language is frank, and straight to the point. We have seen how both authors’ ideas of truth are expressed in their respective texts. Essentially, they are the same, but expressed in different contexts. Langland’s ideas are based through a Christian perspective; It is asked that the dreamer should conform to Christianity to seek enlightenment, and the truth. Unlike Langland, Haines is asking the reader to simply ignore the falsehood and find out the truth yourself. There is nothing to conform to because the truth is not to be found from the outside.


Langland, William. Piers Plowman. New York: Norton & Company, 2006.

Haines, John. The Last Election. Web.

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Piers Plowman and the Last Election. (2016, Nov 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/piers-plowman-and-the-last-election/