The Civilized World In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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As time passes, humans have become more and more domesticated, leaving the natural world in favor of civilization, where food and water are a click away. But the natural world is still a threat to humans today and in the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain is requested to travel England and find a green knight to finish a game played the year before. Gawain is threatened by the outside world, outside of Kind Arthur’s court. The exteriors and interiors in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight serve to express the conflict between the civilized world and the natural world.
The Green Knight is the first example of the contrast between the interior and exterior settings in the poem. At the beginning of the poem, the round table is filled
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“Now through England’s realm he rides and rides, / Sir Gawain, God’s servant, on his grim quest, / passing long dark nights unloved and lone, / foraging to feed, finding little to call food,” (691-694). Before his journey begins, Gawain celebrates in Arthur’s court and is just as jubilant as before the Green Knight appeared. But once Gawain leaves the castle, the tone shifts dramatically to somber and destitute. Gawain “rides and rides” on this “grim quest.” The repetition of rides infers that the journey is long, making it sound like Gawain is alone for a long time on this quest to have his head chopped off, as the game entails. This somber tone is accompanied by the winter setting that Gawain travels; it is cold and bare of color or life, where lack of food and shelter can and will kill people, including Sir Gawain. His position this year is much different from the one he was last year; last year he was celebrating with King Arthur and the lords and ladies of the Round Table, drinking and celebrating. Now, a year later, a full circle has passed, but instead of being in the same place, Gawain is gone from the safety of the castle and not celebrating; he is on a quest to die—at least that’s what he thinks will happen. The outside world he travels is physically menacing as well as symbolically menacing since he is only outside the castle walls to find the…show more content…
Sir Gawain takes on the task. The beheading game threatens Gawain’s life—it is a game where two people take one turn to chop of the other’s head; the game is brought to Gawain by the Green Knight, a representative of the natural world, and therefore it is the natural world that threatens Gawain’s life. This beheading game is for the purpose of a fair exchange and keeping one’s word, something that the Knights of the Round Table claim to have throughout their lives, no matter what they’re faced with. It is essentially a test on the actual civility that these knights—Gawain specifically—hold when faced with a threat to their life. This is the natural world testing the civilization, making it a separation and conflict between the two. Once the Green Knight nicks Gawain’s neck with the axe, he says, “The person who repays / will live to feel no fear. / The third time, though, you strayed, / and felt my blade therefore,” (2354-2357). Because Gawain kept the green girdle that Bertilak’s wife gave him, Gawain broke his contract with Bertilak because he was afraid of dying. Gawain’s own fear of death made him turn to natural instincts; doing everything he could to possibly survive the beheading game. In order to do this, Gawain broke the second contract he made with Bertilak, who is the Green Knight. He gave up his knightly code and

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