The character of Alison in ‘The Miller’s Tale’ - Sample Essay
The description shows that Alison attempts to dress as a reflection of her purity and sweetness. Her clothes are mainly white, her “barmcloth eek as whit as morne milk”, the “tapes of hir white voluper” and “whit was hir smok”. The white clothes are ironic in their reflection of virginity, as Alison soon proves to have loose sexual morals. It is the fact that her outfit is so excessively white that provides a hint towards the idea that purity is a look she is trying to achieve, rather than a characteristic she bears.
She is described to have a “likerous ye”, suggesting that she is a playful, lustful person. She also wears boots “laced on hir legges hye”, which reflects a more erotic nature to her character than the rest of her outfit aims to portray. These things imply that Alison is more mischievous than she seems. Alison is a well groomed and well looked after character, evidently by both her husband and herself.
Her clothes are made from fine materials, “a purs of lether tassled with silk”, and are extravagant and intricate, for instance her “smok” is “broiden” with “col-blak silk”. This shows that her husband treats her well and pays for her to have expensive things, implying that she is perhaps a trophy for him rather than a loving companion. She looks after herself well, indicated by her “ful smale ypulled” eyebrows and “hir mouth” smelling “sweete”.
In the time in which the tale was written it was far less common to be so well groomed and sensually appealing, making her more and more attractive. The fact that she takes such care of her appearance reveals her vanity, and further implies the extent of her beauty. The description reveals Alison’s physical beauty, as well as hinting at the darker sides of her nature. These are both important aspects of the tale as the story unfolds, in justifying the other characters actions and feelings.