Essay Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

Essay 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 with happy lords and ladies celebrating the New Year with food and wine: “The first course comes in to the fanfare and clamor / Of blasting trumpets bung with trembling banners, / Then pounding double-drums and dinning pipes, / That to hear and feel them made the heart float free,” (116-120). The jubilant noise that fills the halls set a tone of prosperity and success within Sir Arthur’s court, which isn’t to be said about most of England during this time. In the winter, the common folk would not have a feast like this one, or be celebrating the New Year. Instead, there would be people dying from the cold or hunger once the farming season was over. This contrast that the audience of the time would understand creates a sense of ignorance that King Arthur and his court have; they are wealthy and prosperous enough to not suffer from the elements outside their castle. But the festivities are cut short when the Green Knight appears. The narrator introduces him, saying, “Now, on the subject of supper...


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... a green girdle would save his life. This is the point where the battle between the civilized world and the natural world is completed. Throughout the poem, Sir Gawain fought against his natural instinct and attempted to keep his character in check as he is faced with many threats from the natural world. But once he keeps the girdle, he gives in to his own natural world and instincts and gives up the honor that Arthur’s court and knights claim to have.
The exteriors and interiors of this poem serve to demonstrate the conflict between the civilized world of King Arthur’s court and the natural world. At the end of this poem, Gawain has realized that one cannot release himself from his own natural instinct, even if it means that contracts and honor is compromised. Everyone’s natural instinct is at war with the civilized world, but it only shows up in times of emergency.

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