Symbolism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Symbolism is a literacy device which has highly been used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The device has made the story livelier and provides a much deeper significance to the plot. Almost everything which has been used in the poem can be interpreted as a symbol in either one way or another. When green knight holds a holly bob, it serves as a symbol used by the Christians to rejoice Christmas. An evergreen was taken to the house during the winter solstice and it symbolized greenery which is a hope of reappearance of spring. Holly bob used by green knight symbolized peace. Green knight symbolizes the fertility god which might be linked to the wall paintings through all the articles of clothing, the skin, green colored hair (Morgan 769). Green knight who is the antagonist in this poem serves as a symbol. Not only is portrayed as evil but he is also a mix of the foreign and familiar as well as divine and damned origin. In addition, he is nature and synthetic. His big stature can also be defined as very powerful or very threatening. The green glow which belongs to him is interpreted to be associated with the nature or alien (Champion 420). When green knight appears in the poem for the very first time, he is holding a holly-branch in one hand which is a symbol of peace and on the other hand he is carrying the axe used in battle which is signifies conflict. It is hard to know what green knight stands for because when a certain characteristic is a symbol of one extreme, then there is also a symbol for the other extreme. Maybe it can be assumed that green knight stands for the earth because it contains all the extremes. The earth has got both peace and war, it is threatening is some parts and on other parts it is safe, it is said to be familiar as well as foreign, it has got the evil and the good attributes which in union makes the big universe (Andrew et al, 1982).
At the start point, Green Knight came for a hazardous game which makes us believe that his aim is to hurt sir Gawain. In the end it is very evident that green has had a plan for the whole thing which was to test Gawain. Green knew that Gawain would prevail and in the end he would change to be a strong and a better person (Morgan 770). The green sash who serves a very big purpose in the entire story has got a symbol in the story. The green color is meant to signify the cowardice of Gawain and the reality and he was to meet green knight the next day. Sash did not kill him though that was not the reason as to why his life was spared because the whole thing was a test. The wife untied it from her waist and put it on his hands whereby he agreed to take it. The sexual innuendo symbolized the courtly love which led to his down fall. However, he kept the sash so that it may remind him of “year and a day” and the test he received. The other knights which are on the Round Table began put on green sashes which were to remind them the lesson which Gawain learned (Morgan 775).
The shield which belongs to sir Gawain is a symbol which has got many meanings. These meanings offer him the physical and moral protection. Outside, there exists a pentangle which has got the image off Virgin Mary in the inside. Virgin Mary is very close to his heart and it symbolizes the belief and trust in God (Heng 510). The relationship he has with god provides him with the inner strength. He keeps his faith to himself and he exposes the pentangle with its chivalric code to the world. Each point was meant for: the five fingers of the hands, the five human senses, the wounds of Christ which were 5 in total, the five joys, and the free-giving virtues which include piety, chivalry, chastity and friendliness (Morgan 780). The pentangle is interlaced with a star which has got a begging but has no end which means where one starts, the beginning provides one with a way to the ending and the end changes to the beginning. Generally, in a year and a day, winter provides a way for the spring, then to the summer, fall and finally back to the winter and by that he kept his promise. When Gawain had thought that it was all over and green knight would kill him, it turned out that that was actually the point of start of his life though from a different life. This symbolism is very important for a term paper because it has a deep meaning (Bloomfield 15). Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is very rich in symbolism and it includes other literacy devices as well. Alliteration is as well found in the story which helps the reader incorporate all the events which are found in the novel. The symbols have given the poem a new dimension. As one is reading this book one may have a negative perception about it but as one comes to an end then it turns out interesting.
Andrew, Malcolm, and Ronald Waldron, eds. The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript: Pearl, Cleanness, Patience, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Univ of California Press, 1982.
Bloomfield, Morton W. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: an appraisal.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (1961): 7-19.
Champion, Larry S. “Grace Versus Merit in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Modern Language Quarterly 28.4 (1967): 413-425.
Heng, Geraldine. “Feminine Knots and the Other Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America (1991): 500-514.
Morgan, Gerald. “The Significance of the Pentangle Symbolism in” Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”.” The Modern Language Review (1979): 769-790.