Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and The Green Knight

The story, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, was told in the14th century by an anonymous poet about a young knight on his first adventure. In my analysis of Part 4, lines 2358 through 2350, I will discuss the significance of the number three, the tap, the asking of the Green Knight his name, and the green belt. I will develop the theory that the author uses this story and these significant symbols to bring out his Christian beliefs about the flesh and its weakness.

The passage opens with the Green Knight explaining why he has not struck Gawain the first two times because Gawain has kept the agreements. The agreement is that whatever the Green Knight wins in the woods, he will exchange with Sir Gawain for his earning in the castle at the end of each day. The Green Knight explains that the reason that Gawain is tapped is because the third time he withheld a part of his earnings for the day (the green belt). The Green Knight swings two times, stopping short; on the third time, he taps Gawain, scarring him but not chopping off his head.

There is great significance in the fact that the events in this poem occur in multiples of three. Three times Gawain is tempted by the lovely lady, and on the third time, he succumbs to her temptations, by accepting the green belt. The hunts take place on three different days. The third day, Gawain withholds a portion of his earnings. The Green Knight swings at Gawain three times. He purposely misses the first two times. On the third time he taps him, leaving a scar. The significance of all these threes is that Christianity teaches the trilogy: the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Almost everything in life falls into groups threes: man, women, child; three trimesters to the birth of a child; the Sun, Moon and the Earth. The fact that the events unfold in counts of threes explains the depth with which the anonymous poet was trying to connect this story and this passage to the bible and biblical events.

The tap represents Gawain's punishment for not exchanging his earnings. He is tapped instead of his head being chopped off because the Green Knight acknowledges the fact that he has told his wife, the lovely lady, to tempt Gawain and he understands why Gawain does not give up the green belt.

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