Sir Gawain Literary Analysis

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jhpowell
Words 776
Pages 4
Hunter Powell
Prof. Rufleth
English 210-002
24 January 2013
Gawain’s Test of Chivalry The code of chivalry plays a big role in shaping the values and actions of Sir Gawain and the other characters in the poem. Throughout the poem, Gawain’s main focus is staying true to the chivalric code, even if it means he will die honoring it. Christian beliefs also have a significant impact on knightly conduct, and they are both brought together in Gawain’s symbolic shield. Gawain’s chivalry is constantly tested throughout the entire poem, and overall he does a pretty good job of staying loyal to the code. Although he does fail at one point in the poem, it only reveals his imperfect human nature. When reading “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, one should keep in mind the various moral aspects of chivalry in order to acquire a better understanding of the text. Loyalty, courage, honesty, honor, and courtesy are all some of the traits that a knight of chivalry embraces. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” tells the story of Gawain’s test of his chivalric attributes. The test administrator in the poem is the Green Knight. He wants to test the courage and integrity of Arthur and his court. When Gawain, the only knight who steps up to the Green Knight, accepts the challenge, he displays great courage and loyalty to his king. After Gawain strikes his blow unto the Green Knight, this is when the true test begins. To maintain his honor, Gawain will have to journey to the Green Chapel and fulfill his end of the agreement. In order to not be deemed a failure, he will have to endure a blow from the Green Knight in a year and a day’s time. As Gawain prepares to leave he assembles all his armor including his symbolic shield. On the outside of the shield is a gold five-pointed star, or pentacle, which represents a set of Gawain’s virtues: his flawless five senses, five…...

Similar Documents

Carnivalesque Features in Sir Gawain and the Green Kinght

...Carnivalesque features in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Games and Challenges Whenever Carnival is mentioned, whether it is on Mikhail Bakhtin’s work: Rabelais and his world on any other document, it is said that it was considered to be a second life for people of the Middle Ages. It was an opportunity for them to laugh, eat a lot, enjoy themselves and escape from the rigidity of the feudal system. There are many features that are characteristic of the carnival, such as big banquets of food, inversion of social classes, humourists, lots of singing and laughing. Throughout this essay, I will focus on one of the features that called my attention when I first read one of the better-known Arthurian stories: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the games. I will explore some of the challenges proposed throughout this romance. Whenever we play a game, whichever it is, we intend to win or to get something out of it. However, I will demonstrate that in this period and by playing tournaments and challenging themselves, people were not exactly looking forward to defeating their opponent or win money, but what they wanted the most was to forget about their original role in society, act as equals, feel liberated and mainly have fun. Let us begin with one of the first proposal for amusement initiated by King Arthur on his court: ‘His noble announcement that he never would eat On such a fair feast-day till informed in full Of some unusual adventure, as yet untold, Of some......

Words: 1387 - Pages: 6

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Essay

...Persevere The poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by John Gardner, is set in the Middle Ages. This was a time in history when people focused on the values and ideals of the Code of Chivalry, a code of honor intended to govern knightly behavior. As Arthur and his knights get together to feast and celebrate Christmas and the new year their festivities were interrupted by a man of green who wandered about searching for adventure so that he can disprove his chivalry. The two values that are most clearly stated in the poem are courage and honor. It will become clear by the actions of the characters that courage and honor is shown in several different areas of the poem. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, courage is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage can be shown in a variety of ways. In this particular instance the Green Knight challenged King Arthur or any of the knights of the roundtable to take his ax and hit his bare neck. He said to them, “And I will stand still for your stroke, steady on the floor, / provided you honor my right, when my inning comes, / to repay” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 213). Clearly, the Green Knight shows a tremendous amount of courage, knowing the danger that it is going to befall him if one of the knights takes up the ax to his neck. Sir Gawain is another instance where courage was lost and then found. After a year, Gawain met the Green......

Words: 763 - Pages: 4

Sir Gawain

...Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains many themes. Some of these themes are more obvious than others. Love, lust, loyalty, deceit, trust, courage, virtue, and righteousness are most of the themes within the poem. There are some more that are hidden within the concepts of the ideas that the poem presents. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by John Gardner, many different themes are addressed throughout the story. The translation by John Gardner portrays these themes by using specific characters, medieval symbolism, and various settings within the story. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a great work of medieval literature. The story is considered to be verse romance. There are not many solid facts on the story. The story was composed in the second half of the fourteenth century. It is likely that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written around 1375. The author of the piece remains unknown, but we do know of the northwestern dialect of Middle English with which he wrote the poem. The unknown author also consciously wrote in an old-fashioned style. The author is usually referred to as the Gawain poet or the Pearl poet. Three poems were included with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. "Pearl", "Patience", and "Purity" were all with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the same manuscript. This is the reason the author is named as the Pearl poet, in addition to the Gawain poet. All four poems were uniquely named Cotton Nero A.X. This is due to the......

Words: 2666 - Pages: 11

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: the Role of Honor

...Mason Floyd ENGL 2220 Dr. Rhonda Sanford 7 November 2012 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The Role of Honor Honor has ancient roots in the history of man, but few periods from our past stand in comparison to medieval times. During this time of kings and castles stood a value system spawned out of the sheer and intense belief of honor. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight excellently encapsulates this immense respect for an honorable and noble lifestyle. Chaucer endowed English literature of the time with foundation and became a fore-father of English poetry. “Chaucer was the first to conceive of poetry in English not as the product of an isolated, provincial nation located in an obscure corner of Europe but as a vital agent in the fourteenth-century emergence of the vernacular as a literary language” (Simon pg. 657). In each of the four fitts composing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, one can easily interpret that Chaucer’s writing is developed on the basis of honor and a chivalrous approach to life. It takes no time in reading through the beginning of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to notice the relevance and importance of honor in the culture encompassing King Arthur’s time. While preparing to feast, King Arthur, his knights, and numerous other respectable individuals of the kingdom are seated not at random nor by age, but by honor. It seems as if an individual’s seat at this dinner, through honor, represents their social status in......

Words: 1243 - Pages: 5

Literary Analysis

...Literary Analysis Jennifer Marchant ENG125: Introduction to Literature Instructor: Jennifer Rupp 04/08/2013 Literary Analysis Even though everyone interprets symbolism in a story differently, the literary elements in the story are what help determine the theme. Point of view and symbolism are also factors that affect the theme of a story, as well as how the reader interprets it. The short story, “The Gift of The Magi”, there are several literary elements included in the story that would affect the theme. The overall theme of this particular short story is love. “…Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good…” (Clugston, 2010). The couple loved each other so much, that the two of them always had the best interest of the other at heart. They would nearly do anything for the other, if able. The symbolism shown in this particular story shows that because they loved each other so greatly, and even with their living conditions not being at best, they still sacrificed the little things that they thought to be so precious to them, just so they could both purchase gifts for the other during the holidays. “…Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs, in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair…” (Clugston,......

Words: 634 - Pages: 3

The Truth Behind the Knight: the Presence of Archetypes in Sir Gawain & the Green Knight

...Knight: The Presence of Archetypes in Sir Gawain & the Green Knight In the medieval story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, we are introduced to a young man, who, like many of young men, is trying to discover himself and travel through his rite of passage. He is trying to figure out who he is in life, and while in his journey, passes through many phases that mold him into one of the great Knights of the Round Table that old King Arthur wanted to serve with him. These phases affect everyone at some point in their lives. Whether it causes someone to take an iconoclastic stand against a certain more or folkway or if it enables a person to give serious thought to what life could mean, archetypes enable any protagonist in any story to take a journey to find the treasure of their true self. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain was willing to take on the heroic quest and say yes to himself and, in doing so, became more fully alive and more effective to the knightly community and, inadvertently, the literary world. The purpose of the heroic quest is to find the gift retrieved from the journey and give the gift to help transform the kingdom, and in the process, the hero himself. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, three archetypes are present that displays the qualities of a heroic quest that leads Gawain to become a true knight in shining armor. The Innocent Hero Archetype, the Seeker Archetype, and the Lover Archetype forms the mold that Sir Gawain conforms to that makes......

Words: 2908 - Pages: 12

The Role of Lady Bertilak in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

...The Role of Lady Bertilak in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight The role of women was a key role in medieval times. In the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, two women represent this role. They are Lady Bertilak, who is Lord Bertilak’s wife, and Morgan La Faye. It all starts when Sir Gawain is welcomed to Lord Bertilak’s castle and then he meets these two women living there. At all times, Bertilak requests Gawain to feel at home and socialize with these women without problems. Bertilak trusts Gawain even though he would be away and Gawain would remain alone with women. However, his nameless wife uses many different ways to chase Sir Gawain and take advantage of her condition as the host’s wife. Lady Bertilak is a superior being that uses seduction and a supernatural power as a tool to hunt Sir Gawain in order to break his Christian, chivalric and loyal codes. Scholars, that I’ll mention it later, agree that women can emotionally manipulate men, but lacked political power in real life. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight poem is represented by two women mentioned above. “Morgan the Goddess therefore is now her name; none has such high haughtiness that she cannot make full tame” (¶ 98, P. 83). Even though Morgan la Faye, considered to be “The Goddess”, does not appear much in the poem, she represents a certain passive feminine power. Nonetheless, Lord Bertilak’s wife is shown as an active feminine power. She embodies a male character and specifically in the room......

Words: 1672 - Pages: 7

Sir Gawain

...Britt 1 Sarah Britt Kristin Henderson English Literature 14 October 2008 “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” In “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” a poem written by an unknown poet in the late 1300’s also considered the medieval times. Sir Gawain, King Author’s knight is known as the noblest and more willing to face death for King Author and he inspires young knights. Throughout his trials in his journey to the Green Chapel, Sir Gawain’s actions give valuable lessons to young knights. In his quest, Sir Gawain demonstrates his knightly virtues such as, bravery, courtesy, and honesty. First, Sir Gawain shows bravery during the New Year’s feast in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” During the feast the Green Knight enters the court and offers all the knights in the court to a play a game. The game is he will allow one knight that accepts the challenge one swing, with an ax to try and cut off his head, but in order to play the knight must agree to meet him one year later at the green chapel if he fails to chop off his head for his chance to swing at the knight. The brave Sir Gawain accepts this challenge saying, “ Would you grant me the grace” (Line 343). Sir Gawain shows he is brave enough to take the challenge and protect his king. Another way Sir Gawain proves his bravery is one year later at the green chapel. Sir Gawain meets the Green Knight because of Britt 2 his promise for his chance to swing at him. He demonstrates bravery when he......

Words: 763 - Pages: 4

Literary Analysis

...Literary Analysis: The Crucible Through the characters of Abigail, Paris and Proctor, in the playwright The Crucible, Aurther Miller shows that the evils of jealousy, greed and ambition can be more powerfully destructive than any supernatural evil. Abigail Williams’s jealousy turned an entire town hysteric. Abigail is using her power to get back at people she doesn’t like, and eventually Mrs. Proctor. Abigail gets her power from false testimonies about witchcraft. Witchcraft trials don’t use visible evidence so they have to believe her. The town is going crazy with the convictions and all of them stem back to Abigail. Paris’s greed can be blamed for the stat of the witchcraft in Salem. He has turned everyone against him by being a bad minister and requesting unreasonable things for himself and the church. When Paris asked for a better pay and things like golden candlesticks he loses a lot of respect in the village and people start to realize how selfish of a minister he is. Paris complained that he does not make enough money relative to how educated he is, but previous ministers made much less than him. Paris’s greed could be to blame because if he wouldn’t have been selfish about money and his public appearance he would have reported the girls in the woods and this wouldn’t have happened. Proctor’s ambition can be productive but destructive. His will to stop the Salem madness gets himself caught in it. When Elizabeth gets taken away he is furious and promises her...

Words: 416 - Pages: 2

Chivalrous Ideal and Courtly Love in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

...and every Era of our evolutionary process has offered the next one the privilege of witnessing a fascinating world, jewelled in magnificent ideals and a specific behaviour, beautiful even in its flaws. Among these, a haunting and mesmerizing Era captures the thought of literary critics – the Medieval Period. A period marked by powerful beliefs, conflict and self-knowledge, and inhabited by a spirit torn between Christianity and paganism, between virtue and sin, between light and utter darkness. An Era portraying a country trying to adapt to drastic changes brought on by the Norman Conquest of 1066, a country fighting to establish its own history in order to gain independence. A Period of knights and ladies, of valour and good faith, which gives life to some of the highest ideals mankind has ever known. It has introduced us to concepts such as chivalry and courtly love, pure expressions of spiritual essence. Of these ideals poets and authors wrote with lively passion, embroidering them in poems such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or The Wife of Bath. Although its poet remains unknown, the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight remains instilled in our minds as one of the prime examples of chivalry, Gawain representing the chivalrous ideal of the period. His story begins at New Year, in a court filled with joy and happiness, during a banquet thrown by the legendary King Arthur. In the midst of the merriment, the King expresses his desire to behold a marvel, refusing......

Words: 3278 - Pages: 14

Literary Analysis

...LITERARY ANALYSIS OF “JEALOUS HUSBAND RETURNS IN FORM OF PARROT” Jessica Cunningham Galen College of Nursing Literary Analysis of “Jealous Husband Returns in form of Parrot” The title of this short story, “Jealous Husband Returns in form of Parrot”, is a direct reflection of the story itself. Written by author Robert Olen Butler in 1995 this short story is told from the view point of a parrot reincarnation of a jealous husband who falls to his death while trying to catch his allegedly unfaithful wife in the act. In human form the husband is wildly jealous, emotional, and irrational and fails to communicate with his wife about her suspicious behavior. Butler uses point of view, character transformation, and symbolism to show how the husband’s hasty actions, internalization of emotion, and poor handling of his wife’s cheating perpetuates and then dissipates in his current aviary state. The first and most profound literary element used in this short story is point of view. This story is told from a first person limited omniscient point of view. Although the speaker has two physical forms in this story, he has only one conscience as he narrates through his peculiar situation. A first person limited omniscient point of view allows the reader to experience the husband’s jealousy as he fells and thinks it. There are no comments or judgments made from any outside perspective, which reflects a jealous person and the inability to accept outside criticism or advice. The...

Words: 943 - Pages: 4

Sir Gawain Versus Beowulf

...Sir Gawain Versus Beowulf Strength can be described as the audacity to fight until the last breath. In the case of both Sir Gawain and Beowulf these were the ideals that these men followed. In the poems Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and Beowulf, the main characters, Sir Gawain and Beowulf, show the physical attribute of strength and valor. However, Sir Gawain and Beowulf are different in the form of strength and qualities. One represented a king who fought for the people and the other who showed loyalty towards the kingship. Beowulf was regarded as an ideal hero by the Anglo Saxon community. The main trait that regards him as the perfect hero was his courage and strength that he shows at the very end of his life. Beowulf shows his physicality throughout the story. "Beowulf, Higlac follower and the strongest of the Geats - greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in the world"(Beowulf 46). This quote exemplifies the fact that Beowulf is considered the best warrior in the region. He is also considered by many people to have superhuman abilities and superhuman strength when he ferociously rips the arm off of Grendel in the poem. Beowulf portrays the ideals of an epic hero as well as the elements of Germanic tribes which gave him super human strength and super human qualities. He is also " A man of great strength " (Helen web). This also reinstates the detail that shows the agile nature in Beowulf and also physical toughness of him as a whole. As a result, Beowulf is a......

Words: 983 - Pages: 4

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

...ever knight that chooses to challenge him one swing with a battle ax to try and chop off his head, but in order to play the game, the accepting knight must meet the green knight one year later at the green chapel. The brave knight Sir Gawain accepts to the challenge of the green knight. Sir Gawain takes one swing and chops off the head of the green knight. Right after the green knight's head is chopped off he gets up immediately, picks up his head and leaves. Once a year passes, Gawain sets off on a journey to find the Green Chapel. He arrives at a castle in which a lord welcomes him to stay for several days (Gawain only needs to stay there for three). The next morning the lord makes an agreement to share everything he gets during these three days with Gawain, but Gawain must agree to do the same. During days one and two the lord's wife tries hitting on Gawain, but he only allows her to give him a few kisses. At these days Gawain shares what he got to the lord for what he has hunted those days. On the third day, Gawain finally accepts to take a magic girdle from the lord's wife, but he didn't share it with the lord. This magic girdle helped Gawain survive the three fatal swing's of the green giant's ax, only leaving him with a little nick. After Gawain survives these 3 swings at his neck, the green knight then reveals his identity and explains that he is Bercilak, the lord of the castle. He also said that the three blows were taken at him in regards to the three days of their......

Words: 1092 - Pages: 5

Literary Analysis

... Literary Analysis of “The Lottery” In the year of 1948, author Shirley Jackson wrote a non-forgettable, haunting, short story about a lottery that takes place in a rural city. The author writes the story to take place in a small city in New England. This is not the typical lottery that first comes to mind. This is not a lottery where a one or more lucky winners are chosen at random to be given a great amount of money, but rather a lottery that is held annually in the city and one individual is selected at random to be killed by the citizens of the village. The tradition of the lottery has been practiced for many years by the people living in the city. The setting of ‘The Lottery’ hides the significance and the purpose of the lottery that actually takes place in the small city. Typically, if a ritual such as “The Lottery” has been part of society for such a great amount of time the habit is hard to break. Even as negative as someone being chosen at random to be killed by the people around them, others seek out that it will happen once per year no matter what. Jackson uses symbolism throughout the short story through objects and names of characters that hold meaning to the lottery. This short story may infer that a theme for the story is that not all traditions are positive and the outcome could literally be life changing. The name of each character in ‘The Lottery’ holds a symbolic meaning within the story. By using symbolic names, Jackson can foreshadow things......

Words: 955 - Pages: 4

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

...“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” follows the classic tale of a knight accepting a challenge and the journey that the challenge takes him on. While on this challenge Sir Gawain is tested and finds about the price of pride and sin. Throughout the story there are repeated references to the color green and the girdle that he uses to hide from his fate. The color and the girdle are symbolic, with the green representing man’s connection to nature and his primal instincts, and the girdle representing man’s sin, as well as his desire to redeem himself of that sin. The color green is mentioned throughout the course of the story. When the mysterious knight interrupts Arthur’s feast on New Year’s Eve, “he was clad all in green…hose had he of the same green…and all his vesture was verily green” (“Sir Gawain”). When this is combined with the fact that he carries a holly branch in one hand and an axe in the other, this large green knight is closer to an element of nature than a regular man. Green also comes into the story in the later meeting place. The Green Knight tells Sir Gawain to meet him in the Green Chapel. The chapel is described as being in the wild, “all overgrown with grass,” clearly another connection to nature, and the fact that the grass is taking over can be seen as symbolic as Gawain’s survival instinct increasing (“Sir Gawain”). The more he is in this setting, the stronger his desire to escape becomes and he has to use all of his courage to stay and search out the......

Words: 762 - Pages: 4