Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a fourteenth century Middle English romance story portraying the chivalrous character of Sir Gawain. It is a splendid but a difficult poem and the one that has naturally attracted a considerable body of critical commentary. The poem is altogether extraordinary, especially in the brilliant architectonics of its composition. The complex and symmetrical structure of the poem urges the readers to look for an overall meaning and intention. (John Halverson).
The story belongs to the category of the best stories that have a strong theme, a fascinating plot, a fitting structure, unforgettable characters, a well-chosen setting, and an appealing style. The intricate plot, rich language and complex symbolism make the poem interesting for many a critic. Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict in the mind of Sir Gawain and his out ward conflict with the Green Knight make the poem rich in its plot.
When the King Arthur was challenged in his court by a mysterious green warrior, Sir Gawain took it valiantly. The “Green Knight” offers to allow anyone to strike him with his axe if the challenger will take a return blow in a year and a day. The valiant Sir Gawain strikes the Green Knight beheading him only to see the Green Knight getting up and setting up head once again stunning everyone there. Thus the story begins drawing Sir Gawain into action and later his struggle to meet the Green Knight at the appointed time after one year.
Sir Gawain shows extraordinary courage and determination in keeping his word. The setting in a story helps it to unfold naturally. It sets the tone of the story and provides the necessary background for understanding the actions of the characters in the light of the context. Setting is the psychological time or place in a story. Setting plays an important role in the success of stories. It sets the reader’s mood and setting in this story puts the reader right into the story. It also helps to outline the theme of the story.
It may be an important symbolism in the story which only enriches the story with multiple layers of meaning. The story of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight is set in the backdrop of medieval courts and allows the readers understand the intricacies in the plot. The hunting in the dangerous forest and the lovely green chapel add to the richness and complexity to the story. It is a perfect setting to portray the gallantry of the host, Bertilak in the open world and the virtuous nature of Sir Gawain in the closed chambers of the chapel.
The struggle that goes in the mind of the protagonist is richly suggestive. Morgan argues that a moral struggle is suggested by the juxtaposition of the hunt scenes and the bedroom scenes, with the Lady in the role of the hunter and Gawain as the hunted. (Morgan). A theme is something important the story tries to tell us—something that might help us in our own lives. The main is character is someone readers can feel something in common with, or at least care about. Generally the main character has an flaw in his character and as a result he suffers.
We see the character evolving as the story progresses. Sir Gawain’s guilt of not keeping his promise to Bertilak makes him realize his inner moral weakness, though he appears to be victorious to the outside world. The finest of all Middle English metrical romances, Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight, dealing with incidents derived, apparently, from a primitive form of the Gawain legend, portrays him in his original character as a model of chivalry and of all the knightly graces.
(Cambridge History of Literature) References Halverson John http://www. jstor. org/pss/436002 Morgan, Gerald. “The Action of the Hunting and Bedroom Scenes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. ” Medium Aevum 56 (1987): 200-16. http://chss. montclair. edu/english/furr/arkin. html The Cambridge History of English and American Literature http://www. bartleby. com/211/1213. html
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