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Sir Gawain March 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — charlottepierce13 @ 1:04 pm

I read the previous part to this excerpt and got a lot more out of this specific part.  This poem is extremely ironic.  Sir Gawain accepts his fate on Christmas, a time of joy and around the time of a new year.  Also, Gawain’s green belt, originally the symbol of safety, comes to stand for his very human sin, and finally, a symbol of honor.

The Green knight/Bertilak seeks to teach a lesson, as he appears to know what the effects of his actions will be and how the future will play out.  He reveals that he was the Lord from the castle in their final meeting.  The way that he tests Gawain on his proposed death day are evidence.  On the first swing of his axe, he reprimands Gawain for being weak when he flinches.  Then he stops a second time, claiming he was testing to see if Gawain was ready-he later explains that the first two blows were a reward for Gawain’s following their earlier

game’s rules.  And  the third time, his swing doesn’t go through, only to leave a scar and lead Gawain to state that it is now his time to defend himself-the third blow was for Gawain’s failure to return the green girdle to him on the last day.  But because Gawain’s failing was only because he wanted to save his life, and not because he’s just dishonorable, the Green Knight forgives him.  He leaves Gawain with only with a scar and a belt as a reminder of his very human sin.

This tale is also appropriately known as the “beheading game.”  It is written in bob and wheel stanzas, which are the lines forming the body of the stave being not rhyming, but alliterative.  Originating from Welsh, Irish and English tradition, it highlights the importance of honor and chivalry.  From the romance genre, it involves a hero who goes on a quest that tests his prowess.  There is a great use of description, detailed without becoming overbearing.

The seasons, games and green are recurring, especially from beginning to end, to highlight the character’s transformation.  In the beginning, Gawain is confident which he mistakes for chivalrous and noble.  He receives his fate and faces it at the same times of year.  In the beginning, he plays into a game that in the end makes him a better person but which he now knows are better to avoid.  And finally, the green belt that he is left with will forever be a symbol of the Green Knight.


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