"The Pardoner's Tale" departs from previous themes explored in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales through examining the extent men will go for riches and notoriety.
I remember reading this story in an English Literature class. It was the one and only segment of The Canterbury Tales that my class tackled. Perhaps the instructor wanted to teach us the downfalls of greediness and thinking only of ourselves... or perhaps she wanted to avoid the sticky issue of gender that is so often brought up in Chaucer's work.
The Pardoner describes three men who find a bucket of gold under a tree. Each desires to take the gold for themselves and devise individual plans to do so. Throughout their journey the men learn that death cannot be cheated and riches are not the be-and-end-all in life.
"The Pardoner's Tale" is a refreshing story in Chaucer's work. It is easy to relate to - almost every person hasn't wanted to share a brand new gift at some point - and yet, it is a supernatural story of its own.
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2006.