Commentators have noticed that The Pardoner’s Tale clearly belongs to the main tradition of Wain’s fiction and has a value apart from its subject and technique. Yet in helping to define that tradition, its dark agonies make it his best and most serious achievement. Although several reviewers had reservations about its tedious, somewhat forced combination of two narratives, they all recognized its genuine power. Through Giles, Helen, and Diana, the reader gains a sense of contemporary England as a wasteland. It is a world in which the action of the novel—wasted lives, debased sexual encounters, and destroyed moral selves—reflects a tragic vision of futility and sterility. Such traditional certainties as love, faith, and the capacity for regeneration have become remote and inaccessible. Alienation is the result. It is alienation in many forms: isolation from the community, estrangement from those who were once closest to one, and loneliness in the midst of the universe itself.
At the same time, Wain is also close to offering one of the major twentieth century solutions to the chaos of life: salvation through art. Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf all offered this as an answer to the conditions Wain presents in The Pardoner’s Tale. Giles’s theory is an artistic vision for ordering experience similar in nature to Proust’s vision in the last volume of Remembrance of Things Past (1913-1927), when the narrator of that novel decides that only by re-creating his experience in a work of art can he make it meaningful. It is tragic that Wain’s narrator has not had, and never will have, this final vision.
Sin In "The Pardoner's Tale"
There are seven deadly sins which diminish the prospect of happiness in heaven. They are called deadly because each one is linked to the other, and one can lead to another. The sins are pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, avarice, and lechery. In Canterbury Tales provide a story about these sins and focus mainly on pride, greed, and gluttony. The Pardoner’s Tale in particular focuses on characters who are so overwhelmed by their ambitions and desires that they do not realize the effects of their sin, and as a result, they deprive themselves of salvation.
In the tale, gluttony is the overindulgence of food or drinks. The pardoner says that this sin corrupted the world. The first form of this sin is being drunk. Being drunk is sinful because a man loses the ability to reason and the men who became drunk would eventually engage in swearing and lechery. The pardoner claimed that this is the sin that affected Lot when he had sex with his daughters. Drunkenness was also allegedly the sin that caused Herod to order John the Baptist killed. In these examples, it was gluttony that led to incest and murder. However, the pardoner who told these stories did not practice what he preached. He stopped in his exemplum to get a drink.
The pardoner was also quite proud. He would speak in Latin in order to showcase his linguistic ability and yet he became the model for deceit and hypocrisy as he preached. He was also a bragger, who bragged about the sins he had committed. He admitted to his sinful behaviour and his immorality. He confessed his sins to those that were gathered to hear him preach. He later admitted that he was guilty of foolishness because his overall intention when preaching about sins was to win money and not to cast out any sins of the people listening.
Throughout this story it is the pardoner who portrays himself as righteous as he tries to convince others to pay for their sins but who chooses not to follow any of his teachings. He becomes angry at the end when the host makes a joke at his expense. He expresses how he wants to live in luxury and hates the poor portraying slothfulness. He has an arrogant attitude which stops him from cultivating an honest relationship with anyone. And in the end it is pride which drives him to commit envy.