Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales begins with a gathering of twenty-nine medieval pilgrims of assorted backgrounds. These pilgrims had come from all over the land and each possessed unique characteristics and personalities. In the initial course of the story all of them under seemingly funny coincidence had come to unite under one common tavern. As Chaucer starts to describe and characterize his characters he notes the unique diversities of character and personality among the pilgrims, which extend to noble knights, corrupt churchgoers, eye-shifting highwaymen, and a great variety of other multifarious characters.
One particularly noticeable contrast Chaucer made was between the greedy Pardoner and faithful Parson. Even though they are both clergymen, their personalities foiled as they were portrayed by their contrasting actions and attitudes toward the church. The Pardoner was rapacious, rich, and adorned with lavish linens and bountiful jewelries unlike the plain, common priest. The Parson on the other hand lived an entirely opposite lifestyle of poverty and humility and yet still managed to make a living by devoting his life to helping people to the best of his ability.
Through Chaucer’s characterization, the Pardoner was introduced as a clergyman who traveled from place to place and absolved people’s sins. However, as more and more people donated to the church to buy salvation, the Pardoner began to take the donations to divulge in his personal pleasures and indulgences. The Parson, however, was introduced as a poor yet devoutly religious priest with orthodox moral values. He often munificently preached holy sermons to the people of small rural towns. Chaucer contrasts these two characters as the Pardoner became filthy rich through sly pocket transactions while Parson remained poor through humble honesty.
Pardoner took charitable money into his own pocket while the Parson earned his own living honestly. Pardoner was dishonest through his actions of indulgence while the Parson was honest and true to his fellow neighbors and his own God. Also, the Pardoner was hardly a priest at all if not a salesman who coerced people into making donations while the Parson was a authentic priest who taught the lessons of God and only asked for his fellow neighbor’s faith in the Lord. An apparent contrast forms between the Parson’s honesty and the Pardoner’s corruption throughout Chaucer’s Prologue of the Canterbury Tales.