Gawain And Green Knight

.. picking his target and moving in on it knowing he had the upper hand. Gawain and the lady are know starting to have a more intimate relationship and the two even exchange a kiss in their next encounter. However, the next move for the lady is to propose that she and Gawain have an affair. Gawain answers this in a clever manner saying that he can not have an affair with a woman of the court, despite all the affection that he has shown her during his visit. As a result of this, the lady gives him a green girdle, which belongs to her husband, and instructs him to wear it and it will keep him from harm during the upcoming meeting with the Green Knight.

“She gave him the belt, and besought him for her sake to conceal it well, lest the noble lord should know” (240). Now Gawain thinks he has it all. With this gift from the lady, he has the power to avoid getting his head chopped off by the Green Knight when it is his turn to face the ax. “Now peaceful be his pasture, and love play him fair” (214). He feels good because he did not have an affair with the lady, and he festively awaits his feast.

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Gawain know is fully engulfed in his transition from good to evil, from truthful to deceptive. He has carried on an affair with a woman he knew was married and on top of that took a girdle which was supposed to protect him from all harm. One quality of a knight was to be brave, stand up to challenges especially when they seem to be overwhelming. Instead of doing this, Gawain thinks he can rely on some green girdle and all his problems will go away. As the exchange between Gawain and the lady is going on, the men are out hunting for the feast that night.

This time they catch a fox, but the way they catch it is important because it mirrors the hoax Gawain was trying to put on with the Green Knight’s wife. The fox tries to backtrack so that the dogs will not pick up his scent, but instead he backtracks so well that he actually runs into the dogs and is killed. This is synonymous with the plan Gawain was trying to use, pushing the contact with the lady to the very edge. He wanted to do as much as he could without being caught in an affair. Ultimately, his slyness was detected by Gawain and this is what led to his downfall, just like the fox. They almost outsmarted themselves.

The reader becomes aware that the Green Knight is the person behind all of the things that are occurring, so what is the reader left to think about him? Obviously the opinion will have a great degree of variance. What should be clear to the reader is that Gawain is not really all that he was built up to be at the beginning of the novel. Although it might be hard for one to put the Green Knight in the category of good, it is easy to say that he can be taken out of the evil category. He was simply trying to show that knights are not this Christ-like figure that they sometimes want, and even appear, to be. From the middle of the poem on, Gawain undergoes a noteworthy transition from good to evil and it comes to a climax when he meets up with the Green Knight.

“For that is my belt about you, that same braided girdle, my wife it was that wore it” (250). However, it seems to me that Gawain does not react in the manner that he should. When the scheme is exposed to him, Gawain simply tells the Green Knight it has exposed his “cowardice” and he will strive to win his faith back. The girdle itself is an interesting story in itself. Instead of asking for it back, the Green Knight lets Gawain keep it as a remembrance of his wrongdoings and his journey to the Green Castle.

It is almost as though the girdle signals the transition of good to evil for Gawain. When he receives the girdle from the lady, he also becomes deceitful. So the girdle is the most symbolic piece in the entire poem. Gawain takes it to try and deceive the Green Knight, and perhaps even himself, into thinking that everything is alright. Meanwhile, he is trying to lie to cover up the affair that he is secretly having with the Green Knight’s wife.

Therefore, when the girdle gets exchanged a transition of power takes place between Gawain and the Green Knight. After looking at the important incidents involving the two main characters, it is time to look at the author and think about why he would do such a thing. Now although the author of the poem is unknown, I am willing to make one assumption about him. I believe that he was a Christian and believed God was the supreme being. Knights, as a whole, are supposed to be Christ-like figures once they accept the shield and this did not sit well with the author.

He did not feel that any human being could be compared to Christ in any way shape or form. This is why the author had to expose the weakness of both the knights. In Gawain, the weakness is obvious. His love for women is uncontrollable and he is hopeful of a miracle girdle that will keep him from getting beheaded. For the Green Knight, who is seen as a positive figure throughout the poem, the attitude he exhibits in the opening scene is important to the author. He wants to let his audience know that nobody is perfect except for God and anyone who tries to be will always have some negative characteristics.

Gawain also exhibits some characteristics that can be compared to Beowulf. They both lived up to the idea of the Pagan hero and could not control there greed and lust. Beowulf wanted the dragon’s gold, while Gawain wanted the Green Knight’s wife. It is simply impossible for these two characters to be satisfied with what they have. Gawain, you would think, would be satisfied with becoming a knight and receiving the approval of King Arthur. Instead he goes out and strives for things he can not have, like the lady. It seems as though Gawain was trying to reach something that was unattainable to anybody and his motives for this are suspect.

In this aspect, the author seems to be saying that knights are not God-like figures and they have a lot of work to do as a person. It is unfair for someone to call themselves God-like just by going through the process of becoming a knight. The quest through knighthood does not automatically make you invincible to the temptations and distractions that come with everyday life. It is unfair for these people to compare themselves to God. There are two main points which the author wanted the reader to take away from this poem.

The first is that nobody on earth has the right to act God-like except God himself. This goal is simply unattainable, even when one becomes a knight, which happens to be the most noble position in England at the time. The second message from the author is that once you become something (a knight), you must strive to keep becoming better as a person and do not think you are immune to the dangers that exist in the outside world. If you fail to do this, your perception may change to the exact opposite of what you want. This is the case with Gawain.

He does not think he needs to further develop as a human once becoming a knight. The author assures us that development is a continuous process that must be built upon with each subsequent experience. Bibliography Bressler, Charles. Literary Criticism. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.

“Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton and Company, 1993, 200-54.