Sir Gawain And The Green Knights English Literature Essay

The story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is about a tale of adventure, games, symbols and Morales. This story was written in the late 1300’s, and the real name of the author is unknown, but goes by the Pearl Poet. Was the author trying to convey a small piece of what his life was like for him and his religious beliefs in his poem?

The setting takes place at Camelot during Christmas time. Everyone is enjoying the feast at the round table when the Green Knight and walked in on his green horse. He was larger in size than anyone else at the feast. He wore no armor or a shield, but carried a green axe. The Green Knight says that he will allow whomever accepts the task to strike him with his own axe, on the condition that the opponent find him in exactly one year and one day to receive a blow in return. He challenged everyone at the feast to the beheading game, but no one spoke up to accept the challenge. Stunned that no one in the court stepped up, King Arthur starts to accept the challenge, and just as he is reaching for the axe, Sir Gawain asked if he could take the challenge, and the Green Knight agreed. Sir Gawain took the axe and chopped off the Green Knight’s head, but the Green Knight did not die. He picked up his head, reminding Sir Gawain to seek him in a year at the Green Chapel. The color green signifies several things in this story: mystical powers, and life. I believe the author chose the color green because of the evergreen trees. If he observed the trees he would see that the evergreen trees do not lose their color or foliage in the winter, and that it would appear to look like the trees have eternal life. This is the first of several symbols, and the first game to be played in this story.

Sir Gawain prepares for his quest; he has the best armor and wears a pentangle, which is a five pointed star with lines drawn without lifting a pen representing the knightly friendship, kindness, chastity, courtesy, and religiousness; in addition, a shield with the Virgin Mary on the inside. I believe this is the author’s way of representing his religious beliefs, and Sir Gawain’s Christianity. The Virgin Mary being on the inside of the shield could also be symbolic of her actually protecting Sir Gawain during battles; furthermore, he believes he is being protected and looks to Virgin Mary during critical times. We see this when Gawain feels like he can go no further. He has traveled far through the woods over cliffs with his horse, Gringolet, and endured the rain and sleet. He is tired, cold, and hungry. With that in mind, it is Christmas Eve, Gawain prays to Mary to guide him to a dwelling. Could this also be who the author prays to in his hour of need? Sir Gawain travels a little further when he sees a castle. Gawain asked the lord of the castle if he can lodge there. Gawain is shown where he will stay and is appointed a servant to assist him with his needs. The author goes into great detail describing the inside of the castle; the silk hangings hemmed all in gold, to the eastern woven rug hanging on the wall. In my opinion, this is symbolic of the author having first-hand knowledge of a royalty life.

Sir Gawain has no idea that he is about to play not one game but two games. Bertilak offers sir Gawain to eat and rest up before he sets off to find the Green Knight. He tells Gawain that he is going to hunt for the next few days, and makes Gawain an offer that whatever he catches he will give to him in return, and Gawain will have to give him whatever he has gotten that day. Gawain accepts the challenge although he doesn’t know what is in store for him. Bertilak goes out the first day and hunts down a deer. When he returns he asks Gawain what he had to give him, and Gawain went over and kissed him. The second day he returns with a fox and Gawain in return gives him two kisses. The kisses have come from Bertilak’s wife. Every time Bertilak went out for the hunt, his wife would try to seduce Gawain. On the last day Gawain does not accept the kisses, so Bertilak’s wife gives Gawain a green belt and tells him that it will save his life. He accepts the belt. Sir Gawain is a gallant and mostly upstanding character who is concerned about the protection of his honor as a knight. However, because he is embarrassed or ashamed about having acquired the green belt of Bertilak’s wife, he suppresses this information with his host. Bertilak’s wife’s actions, as well as Sir Gawain’s decisions about withholding information from Bertilak is very symbolic of the events occurring earlier in the day. The deer represents the reluctance of Sir Gawain, and the fox symbolizes Bertilak’s wife being sly and sneaking into Sir Gawain’s bedroom. Once again, we have the color green symbolizing life, through the green belt. Sir Gawain sets off in his quest for Green Chapel in search of the Green Knight. He finds the Green Knight and is ready to up-hold his part of the beheading game with the Green Knight In the end, Sir Gawain is injured slightly because of this omission of the green belt.

I believe the Pearl Poet was conveying some of his life in this poem. He shows us that he likes adventure and games, but then again who doesn’t like these things. He also shows us several symbols throughout the story in which it is left up to the reader to interpret like the color green, deer, and the fox. The pentangle was more of his character that he wanted Sir Gawain to have representing knightly friendship, kindness, chastity, courtesy, and religiousness.