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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Analysis

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Analysis

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was written by an unknown author, a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, between 1375 and 1400. This story tells us about the adventures of King Arthur's most noble, honest, and courageous knight in Camelot, Sir Gawain. The main action of the story focuses on a challenge given to Sir Gawain by the Green Knight. The knight challenges Gawain to the Christmas game where Gawain hits him with an axe now, and twelve months and a day later, the knight will return the favor at the Green Chapel.

This section of the story deals with the second meeting of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and now it's the Green Knight's turn to return the favor. Gawain has traveled long and far to find the knight and uphold his end of the challenge and meet his fate. The Knight is very impressed by Gawain because a lesser man would have not kept his end of the bargain.

All of this has led to the climax of the story with Gawain facing the knight, preparing to take the return blow from him and end the challenge. The knight raises the ax to hit Gawain, but Gawain flinches before it hits him. The knight calls Gawain a coward. This infuriates Gawain, and he swears that he will take the blow standing and not flinch again. He states, "But go on, man, in God's name, and get to the point! Deliver me my destiny, and do it out of hand, for I shall stand to the stroke and stir not an inch till your ax has hit home--on my honor, I swear it!" (Norton, 249). Gawain reacts this way because he wants to show honor and live up to his promise made earlier. Also, he feels embarrassment and anger.

The knight then acts as if he is going to use the ax again, wanting to see if Gawain will flinch first. But Gawain doesn't flinch at all and stands there, "still as a stone, or else a stout stump" (Norton, 249). The knight mocks him, saying that his nerve is back, and now he must strike because the timing is right. He then builds up the mood, and to create suspense, tells Gawain, "Keep your neck-bone clear, if this cut allows!" (Norton, 249). This further infuriates Gawain, and he tells the knight that he is making too much of a scene.

The knight says, "I shall finish this affair, nor further grace allow." (Norton, 249). Now there is no rescue for Gawain; he has to take it like a man. The knight raises the ax and hits Gawain but he didn't harm him as "The end of the hooked edge entered the flesh" (Norton, 249). All that Gawain suffers is a scratch that severs the skin. Gawain bleeds a little bit but is alive and well.

When Gawain sees this, he jumps up, and puts on his helmet and shield and holds his blade to defend himself from any further attacks by the knight. Gawain states, "Have done with your hacking--harry me no more! I have borne, as behooved, one blow in this place; if you make another move I shall meet it midway and promptly, I promise you, pay back each blow with brand" (Norton, 250). This shows the courageousness of Gawain because what he did could have angered the Green Knight, but it does not.

The knight lowers the ax and faces Gawain. The knight tells him that he should be happy with what happened, for if he were a lesser man, "I could have dealt more directly, and done you some harm." (Norton, 250). The knight says that he didn't hurt Gawain because he followed all of the terms in the first meeting and held up his end of the bargain, proving his worth as a man. The knight at last states, "True men pay what they owe; no danger then in sight" (Norton, 250).

This is very important section in the story and shows how good things come to good people and that fate has a place in life. Gawain might easily have died by the hand of the Green Knight, or on the journey to find the knight, but he is saved from death and allowed to live.


*Abrams, M.H., ed., et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Sixth Edition. Vol.I. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

*Blakelock, Jane. Online. Internet. 03/16/99. "Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, The Wife of Bath". Available

*Geoffrey Chaucer. Online. Internet. 03/16/99. Available Chaucer.html.

*Jokinen, Anniina. Online. Internet. 03/16/99. "Geoffrey Chaucer (Ca. 1343-1400)".

*Jones, Sam. Online. Internet. 03/16/99. "The Litrix Reading Room". Available

*Skill, Elaine Strong. Cliffs Notes on Beowulf. Lincoln: Cliffs Notes Incorporated, 1990.

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