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The text portrays the convergence between human nature, human deviance, and social powers that work to compel individuals to behave in a certain manner. The effect of religion on people's actions and interrelationships is predicted in The Wife of Bath's Prologue. This is emphasized by Wife of Bath's declaration at the beginning of the letter, "if there were no authority on earth, except knowledge, mine, for what it's worth..." In this argument, Wife of Bath seeks to separate herself from culture and the institutions that affect her. She tries to show that she can exercise her free will and live her life in the manner that she deems best without necessarily having to conform to religious dogma. This therefore makes the text a portrayal of the conflict that humans experience trying to exercise their free will versus the societal expectations of conformance to the manner of life that is determined by dogma and convention.
Wife of Bath in the text tries to show that her experience with the marriage institution gives her authority to hold on to her opinions about it. From the position that the protagonist stands, it is clear that she existed in a society where the behavior of people is subject to religious standards and that is guided by conventions that guide the way that people treat themselves to the marriage institution. People criticize her for having as many as five husbands as wife of bath relates that her critics tell her that “…as Christ went only on one occasion to grace a wedding – in Cana of Galilee – he taught (me) by example there to see that it is wrong to marry more than once”. However, Wife of Bath stands to distance herself from such religious obliging to defend her decision to marry again and again. She does not view her way of life, the fact that she married herself to a series of men as a fall away from what society expects of her. Instead, she stands proud of it and chooses to vouch for the decision to explore one’s nature to marry and use the nature that is in them to pursue happiness and fulfillment.
The protagonist in her attempt to defy dogma and societal determination of lifestyle standards attempts to justify her own life experiences and decision about marriage. How she goes about to justify her lifestyle however still end up to be by conforming to the prevailing practices in her society. As such, she shared in the common practice around her that justifying claims is through making references and allusions. This is just as the religious refer to Christ, quote from the Bible, the protagonist also makes similar effort that is scholarly to find quotes and refers to literatures that support her perceptions and choices. While refuting the evidence form scripture that those who are religious offer to forbid multiple marriages, she also only endorses the biblical notion command to human beings to “wax and multiply” and terms it a “kindly text that (she) can understand”. This partly demonstrates how in societal practices and conventions are justified by people selecting events and referrals that support course while leaving out those that are in opposition. Just as the religious people usually make reference to biblical quotes that oppose multiple marriages and polygamy, so does Wife of Bath select only that quote that supports her almost carefree living and serial remarrying while slamming the other opposing quotes. It effectively occasions the competing phenomena of conformance and non-conformance to societal conventions. While Wife of Bath refutes monogamy and opposition to remarrying that is a conventional societal practice, she conforms to the scholarly practices of the time of selecting literature ad justification that only serves the conveniences of one’s course.
The text is therefore a show of how people stagger between heeding to their whims and respecting societal forces that foist a way of conduct on its members. Wife of Bath epitomizes the fact that people experience a state of conflict when faced with situations where what they find satisfying contravenes the values that are held by society. This leads to a clash of interests, motives and a test on the very nature of humanity as defiant and compliant both at the same time.
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