The Clerk’s Tale and the expectation of astonishment

Interesting to see you tackling your old exam papers! When I was learning the algebra of conic sections and Fitzgerald was writing her her amazing novels!

It's only chemo

Penelope Fitzgerald mentions this as one of the stories that developed her love of plots with a twist at the end. But it appeared on the 1970 A-level exam with this question: ‘Whatever its other merits, The Clerk’s Tale does not achieve its effects primarily through surprise.’ So is it a plot with a twist or not?

Here’s the story. Walter the Duke marries Griselda a village girl. He decides to test her wifeliness and has her children taken away at birth. She thinks they have gone to die. Another Duke, however, raises them in secret. Years later, Walter tests Griselda again: he sends her home and tells her he is marrying a younger woman. Griselda dutifully goes home but comes back to help with the wedding preparations. The big surprise is that the children are coming back. Instead of marrying one of them, Walter presents the young woman and…

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Author: penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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