Sir Gawain And The Green Knight : Illusion Versus Reality Essay

Sir Gawain And The Green Knight : Illusion Versus Reality Essay

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Illusion versus Reality

The middle ages were a time period consisting of a prominent code known as chivalry consisting of honor, nobility and demeanor. The most honorable of all were perceived to be the holy knights of the roundtable whose virtue was believed to surmount that of any other peasant. Knights were romanticized figures incapable of doing wrong. However the satire, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight completely shatters that preconceived notion. This story implements elements of fantasy and romance in order to deride the popular ideal of chivalry. One of the most prominent literary elements implemented in this novel is the use of juxtaposition and contrasts. Through the use of contrast and juxtaposition, the satire Sir Gawain and the Green Knight suggests that the knights of the roundtable lack characteristics of chivalry in order to emphasize the theme concerning the illusion of appearances.
One of the very first contrasts in the poem is the scene comparing the young and old women illustrating the prominence of juxtaposition in the poem.
One woman was young, one withered by years.
The body of the beauty seemed to bloom with blood,
the cheeks of the crone were wattled and slack. (950-952)
This scene juxtaposes two coherently different ideas. The older woman primarily provides the essence of death due to fleeting age. This provides a tone of despair and imminent death. In contrast the younger woman symbolizes vitality and also vanity. Gawain in the midst of approaching his impending death arrives at this castle, which rejuvenates him and in a sense corrupts him by challenging his chivalrous ideals through the use of seduction. However neither the old nor young lady are as frail or innoc...


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...ent mistress but in reality was attempting to derail him from fulfilling his wagers. The Green knight was initially perceived to be an all powerful immortal stranger, however his generosity was revealed in sparing Gawain’s life and his lack of power was revealed when he informed Gawain that he was a mere servant. The biggest illusion is illustrated by the knights of the roundtable who provide the illusion of an organization founded upon principles of chivalry. However it is revealed that they themselves are artificial and lack nobility when they wear the sinful green belt as a symbol of honor and lack the courage to accept the innocuous challenge presented by the Green Knight. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight shatter preconceived notions and provides the reader with a sense of contrast from appearance and reality through the use of magical elements and juxtaposition.

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