Pearl's Middle Class Mourner

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Title: Pearl's Middle Class Mourner
Author: Swarey, April Reid
Advisors: Dr. Charlotte Gross, Committee Chair
Abstract: This thesis is an historical examination of the jeweler's mourning in Pearl. I view the mourner as a middle class tradesman situated within a late fourteenth-century English culture. I argue that his religious beliefs reflect his status within that society and guide his actions while mourning. While the jeweler's grief leads to a crisis of faith, the Pearl-poet seeks to comfort his pain through instruction in biblical text. As the Pearl-maiden educates the mourner in biblical knowledge, she contradicts his traditional understanding of the Christian afterlife. His responsibilities as mourner are simplified and his relationship to the dead is redefined by the maiden. The middle class mourner is also found to be lacking in courtesy, which is defined by the Pearl-maiden as a metaphor for the grace of God. A comparison of the uncourteous jeweler with the courtly Black Knight in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess reveals how a rejection of courtesy disempowers the tradesman throughout the mourning process. Although the jeweler's grief is painful, the Pearl-maiden's instruction offers hope. The poet suggests that if he will obey God's will and conform to the ways of courtesy, the mourner may yet reunite with his beloved in Paradise.
Date: 2008-03-31
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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