Social Issues in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and in The Metro Tales

TIPS WebQuest

John F. Kennedy High School

Creative Writing Class      Mrs. M. Marino




       What is a frame story?  A frame story is a narrative device that connects a series of otherwise unrelated tales.  A famous frame story is Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Several pilgrims, who are from all walks of life, are journeying to visit a shrine and they stop at the Tabard Inn.  Here it is decided that they will each tell a tale to past the time on their journey.  The host of the Inn decides the ground rules and that includes the order of the telling of the tales. Go to the following site to read the tales in Middle English or in a side by side or parallel version.  You may also read summaries of the tales at Notes/Titles/canterbury/shortsumm.html


            The many pilgrims who tell the tales are a Knight, his son the Squire, the Knight's Yeoman, a Prioress, a Second Nun, a Monk, a Friar, a Merchant, a Clerk, a Man of Law, a Franklin, a Weaver, a Dyer, a Carpenter, a Tapestry-Maker, a Haberdasher, a Cook, a Shipman, a Physician, a Parson, a Miller, a Manciple, a Reeve, a Summoner, a Pardoner, the Wife of Bath, and Chaucer himself.” (Classic  Their tales relate a variety of social issues from the Middle Ages and from the perspective of each narrator. The issues include adultery, bribery, theft, murder, religious persecution, banishment, rape, feminism, fraud, unfaithful wives, wicked clergy, violence, poisonous drugs, borrowing and lending money, debt, revenge, war, fighting, betrayal, lying, dishonest rulers, and execution. 




    Our Creative Writing class will also write a frame story.  The title will be The Metro Tales.  The setting is a stalled NYC subway train car.  Each student in our class will choose one of the many passengers to narrate a tale.  The story must be a New York City tale and it must raise a social issue.  Like Chaucer’s tales, you must use a transition from the frame to the tale and back.






1.     We are writing a frame story.  Like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, The Metro Tales will provide a frame which will connect each of our tales.


2.     You are in a New York City subway train which has stalled.  One of the passengers, who has a couple of crates of bottled water, offers a proposition.  He has a bottle of water for each passenger who will tell a NYC tale.


3.     Our class will brainstorm the types of people we see on the train.  You will choose one of these passengers to tell your tale. The passenger does not have to be a character in the tale.


4.      You will choose a social issue that your story will raise through this fictional situation. Remember that the issue is a thematic element.  Though the issue may never be stated, it must be raised through the conflict or the situation.  A solution or resolution should also be suggested.


5.     Think about real issues that truly matter to you. You can look 

at a list of social problems.  Go to:


6.     Choose one issue.  Complete the worksheet at:        


7.     Write your tale.  Your class lessons have covered all the elements of short story writing.  As a reminder, follow the “10 tips for novice creative writers.”  Go to:






8.     Transitions link the frame to the tale and back again.  Be sure     to introduce your narrator/passenger.  Let the character explain his or her destination or circumstances on this day.


9.     Give a short introduction to the tale. Double space and write the title of your story and your name.


10.                          Remember that this is a New York City story and must include references to real people, places, streets, foods, landmarks, and other things that are unique to our city.


11.                          Provide a transition back to the frame.  Once your tale is completed, be sure to add a paragraph or two that brings the reader back to the train through the passenger/narrator.  The next tale may mention your passenger or the tale briefly.





New York Learning Standards


       English Language Arts
Standard 1: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts.
Standard 2: Students will read and listen to oral, written, and electronically produced texts and performances from American and world literature; relate texts and performances to their own lives; and develop an understanding of the diverse social, historical, and cultural dimensions the texts and performances represent.
Standard 3: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for critical analysis and evaluation.
Standard 4: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for social interaction.