이동춘 -- ｢시골유지의 이야기｣(The Franklin’s Tale): 도덕적 이야기인가, 픽션인가?
Dongchoon Lee, "The Franklin’s Tale: a Moral Tale or a Fiction?"
Most critics have agreed with G.L.
Kittredge that The Franklin’s Tale offers a satisfactory solution to the
marriage problem. Even some of them, having spoken of the very complete and
harmonious happy marriage shown at the beginning of the tale, continues that the
Franklin’s commentary on this marriage appears to express the final Chaucerian
English wisdom on marriage. In addition, after a series of tales dealing with
the darker side of marriage, it is very pleasant to read in The Franklin’s Tale
a triumphant victory for good manners and sense. However, Chaucer does not
usually allow himself such neat conclusions, and he often hides behind his
narrator and manages to say much more than we think or the narrator says. To
take the narrator’s words as Chaucer’s own results in missing the ironies and
the humor on which the central statements of the poem rest. In a word, The
Franklin’s Tale can be interpreted as another of Chaucer’s satiric masterpieces.
The narrator of the poem, the Franklin, is a self-made man. Business has
taught him the value of maintaining, even catering to, his public image. He
identifies himself with those like the Squire who are of higher social position
than himself. At the same time he is obsequious in the hope of making a good
impression on the rest of the company. Above all, in his worldly success he has
become a strange blend of moral pretentiousness and hypocrisy. In addition to
the characterization of the narrator which prevents a reader from passively
taking what he says as Chaucer’s own, Chaucer exposes in The Franklin’s Tale
profound contradictions and absurdities. Moreover, none of the characters
conceives of moral or spiritual virtues with which the narrator tries to imbue a
reader. To one with the Franklin’s values, upholding one’s public image by
fulfilling one’s promises is of utmost importance. Regardless of such private
“trouthe” as his marriage vows, Arveragus fears that might lose his reputation.
Dorigen and Aurelius lead their lives with sense, emotion, and instinct as
directed by the Franklin. Especially Arveragus nor Dorigen conceives of any of
the moral or spiritual implications of their marriage.
In addition to
the contradictions or the flaws revealed through internal analysis of the
narrative, the important matters in the narrative such as the sanctity of the
marriage vow, the keeping of promise, and so on are enough to verify that the
Franklin’s point of view cannot be viewed as Chaucer’s own. Above all, the
clandestine marriage between Arveragus and Dorigen was a punishable offence in
terms of the standard medieval view. Arveragus’s promise to obey Dorigen is a
complete reversal of what should pertain in Christian marriage. In a word, when
viewed against the Christian norm this novel marriage relationship seems
inappropriate, even deviant. Dorigen’s promise to Aurelius is the case that she
should not have made the pledge. Under the common law, wives were unable to make
contracts because they had no rights over property. Apart from the moral
absurdity of Dorigen’s promise, she ought not to have made a promise because of
her legal disabilities as a wife.