It is not a new idea or concept that people are presented with situations that require their choices every day. However, how they make the choices is what matters the most in a situation. Despite the difference in decisions that people make, sometimes they make time-inconsistent choices which involve changing their previous decisions without affecting the situational changes. The gain-loss effect in literature can be understood from the psychological point of view that people tend to find what they like the most if they feel that they have gained and also dislike what they feel that they have lost. The whole idea of gain and loss in literature is based on cognitive biases which look at things from the way they are presented. People tend to place a higher value on the good things that they own instead of those that they do not own. The literature materials have depicted different aspects of loss and gain concept. This paper will examine the gain and loss effect based on five texts; The Pardoner's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Pilgrim's Process by John Bunyan, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Jo, The Crossing Sweeper Story by Kate Dickinson. These five texts show different instances of gain and loss effect and this paper will try to demonstrate how in each text the concept of gain and loss has been manifested.
Gain and Loss in "The Wife of Bath's Tale"
People often encounter situations that they are required to make choices. However, in those choices, they find scenarios where they can either gain or lose something. Ledgerwood and Amber argue that once someone has conceptualized something as either a loss or gain, it would be difficult to reconceptualize it again differently (1). The authors further explain that the loss frames sometimes may be stickier than the gain frames; thus, they are able to influence the decisions of people in different situations. In the story "The Wife of Bath's Tale," the author depicts a woman who convinces herself that she has to go through everything and anything to overcome the male patriarchal system. She wants to gain the respect the way men do in the society. Andrew Spacey describes Bath's wife as "an extraordinary woman" because at the time other women are trying to be submissive to the men that makes them second-class citizens, Alison is trying to overcome this obstacle (3). According to Spacey, women during the time 1830s when the story was written were expected to be submissive and also accept the dominance of their men with humility (3). This is something that Alison tends to disagree with as she tries to lose her submissiveness and gain dominance like men. She has been married to five men and she tries to advocate for equality in gender. She does not like the fact that her husbands are mistreating her. For example, her fourth husband is said to have a mistress which is referred to as "paramour" in the story (Chaucer 454). The extraordinary aspect of Alison can be depicted from the way she interacts and perceives the male dominance in the society. Women in the medieval period were expected to uphold their virginity and anyone who may have lost her virginity would be regarded with low esteem in the society. Alison also realizes the importance of this as she explains the story of a knight who raped a maiden and was told to look for what the women wanted the most unless he is executed. The young maiden lost her virginity but gained fulfillment when the "king condemned the knight to be beheaded" (Chaucer 303). The beheading of the knight was a fulfillment to the young maiden for having lost her virginity through rape. However, Alison further explains that before the knight could come back to be executed he found out what women want the most. The knight saved his own life by realizing that women desired most "self-same sovereignty over her husband as over her lover" (Chaucer 1075). Alison further explains her predicaments with the five husbands highlighting each of their weaknesses after the other. Alison seems disappointed in her fifth husband whom she thought was different; she says that she married him not because of his wealth but out of love for him. However, he turns out to be the same with other men; he is a wife beater. Even though men beating their wives were part of the medieval society, Alison seems to disagree with that society. Quick and Benjamin explain that gain and loss effect is associated with the psychological reactance theory. According to the authors, people react negatively to the things that they dislike and positively to the things that they favor (Quick & Benjamin 603). Alison is presented as a modern woman who wants to lose everything that keeps a woman in the second class citizen in an attempt to gain equality and sovereignty over men as they have dominance over them. She desires to be free from the men and this is why she even marries five men. She wants to lose the medieval establishment that tolerates men's dominance over women. She also desires to gain that dominance as she is willing to use whatever it takes to gain that control. Alison's prowess in bed is one of her tools that she uses to dominate or suppress the men's superiority over women.
Gain and loss in "The Pardoner's Tale"
In the story, "Pardoner's Tale" Chaucer depicts the concept of gain and loss in the three friends who are guided by their ego and greed for good life even at the expense of their friends' happiness or life. The gain and loss effect explains people's opinion regarding how others perceive them. According to Quick and Benjamin, people tend to develop favorable opinions for those who tend to be more favorable to them (609). However, this kind of opinion is higher in people who initially had less favorable opinion towards others. "The Pardoner's Tale explains the gain-loss effect in the two hypocritical friends who wants to rip where they did not soar. Pardoner himself is also a hypocrite and opportunist who prey on his followers. He gets money from his followers even from a woman with children who are about to go without food. Pardoner explains how he uses what he calls "guide" to manipulate people (Chaucer 389). The gain-loss theory explains that people's liking is highest for other people when they enhance their positivity towards others (Berscheid & Pamela 168).
The opposite happens when someone reduces positivity towards others. This is the same thing that happens to the three friends who wants to eliminate each other for individual gains. The three friends are in a journey to fin death but instead, find gold which brings division among them. Everyone wants to gain the gold for himself and as they plan to eliminate each other, they end up dead all of them missing the gold altogether. Sigall and Elliot explain that a loss of esteem leads to less liking which results in negative esteem (179). The three friends lose all the gold and their lives but end up gaining nothing in the end. The three friends are on their way to find death who they believe has killed one of their friends. Pardoner explains that the three friends decide to embark on a journey to "sleen this false traytour death" (Chaucer 699). On the way to find death, they meet an old man who also directs them to where they could find death. Each of the three friends is unaware of the fate that is about to befall them. Even though they have missed death which they came to slay, the three rioters find gold instead. People choose the people they form close relationships with in different ways. One factor that determines how people chose those they form close relationships with is the proximity. The physical proximity determines a lot the level of relationship that people have together. Another factor is the attributes of people. People form close relationships with others who remind them of what they like or the people they like. However, someone can dislike others or be disliked by others when they have nothing in common or show no favorable attribute to them. The three rioters that Pardoner tells their tale is a good example of friends who have no common attribute.
The youngest of the rioters decide to poison his other two friends with a wine so that he could gain all the gold pieces they collected on their expedition to slay death. The two other friends also had planned to kill him. In the end, the two friends kill their youngest friend and the two of them also die out of poison while they try to celebrate with the win that the youngest rioter had planned to kill them with (Ampe 3). Pardoner who is telling the story is not different either from the three friends. He manipulates "lewed people" with his guides but tries to justify it as right (Chaucer 392). The story starts with the invitation of Pardoner by the Host to tell "som myrthe or japes right anon" (Ampe 3, Chaucer 319). Pardoner is alienated by the crowd but he agrees to tell a moral story "som moral thing" (Chaucer 325). Pardoner condemns the sinful acts of the three rioters in an attempt to teach his pilgrims a lesson from the story. As Ampe explains, sin was an important part of preaching during the middle ages (5). However, people like Pardoner misused their positions in the church to indulge in sinful acts with the claim that others would understand them. All his attempts to rejoin the society is based on misguided goals or beliefs. He believes that because he is a preacher, he is superior to others. His insensitivity makes him less intellectual; thus, isolating him from the pilgrim.
Pardoner is initially presented as a holy and positively attributed individual. Chaucer introduces Pardoner to the readers as "a gentil Pardoner" (Chaucer 669). He is presented as a harmless individual and this may make the audience like him in the first place. However, as one reads through the story another picture of Pardoner is presented to the audience. The author presents this sinful and fake Pardoner as he collects money based on false relics (Ampe 7). It is funny that Pardoner preaches against the vices that he is guilty of in the first place. He admits that he gets money from people for preaching to them; thus, depicting his greed. He is just like the three rioters who end up dead due to their greed for money. Davis explains that people often weigh the possible outcomes of their decisions in reference to the losses and gains. Those values that they consider fall below the reference point they consider losses and are rejected, while those that fall above the reference point are considered gains and they are accepted (Davis 43). Chaucer uses Pardoner to reject some vices like the greed of the three rioters but instead retains Pardoner's greed. Pardoner believes that the money he gains from preaching is justifiable because he gives his services. On the other hand, he tries to condemn the greed of the three rioters in his story that they have not worked for the gold that they want to kill themselves for. Davis states that the pain experience of loss is often greater than the pleasure experience associated with the gain. The three rioters in the story bore the greatest pain experience than the gains that they acquired. They never enjoyed the gold that they got in their journey. People also despise Pardoner for his act of getting money from people at all cost. Even though he gets the money for what he believes is a service, the moral aspect of his actions show that his ideas are misguided and misplaced.
Gain and Loss in "The Pilgrim Progress"
The gain-loss theory of attraction explains that people are attracted to other people who they enjoy staying with such as friends, family or even partners (Berscheid & Pamela 168). This closeness is determined by the seriousness of the attachment that both parties share. According to Berscheid and Pamela, gain-loss attraction predicts that...
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