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Lecture 8

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Western University
English 1022E
Lorraine Dicicco

Eng1020E October 11, 2011 Lecture 8 TOPIC Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Continued) The Quest  The reader hopes the best for Gawain and wants for him to succeed.  When he departs, he is a symbol of perfection – thus we have an emotional investment in him.  For his people, his seemingly inevitable death is devastating. They see this as Arthur‟s fault, as Gawain‟s death is a result of Arthur‟s quest for a little fun.  As he sets out on his quest, Gawain is alone with and dependent on his God.  The poem enters anti-romance (winter): the mode of irony dominates. Irony invokes a sense of a gap (what one says is different from what one means). He is alone in the wilderness.  While he battles the foes (animals and beasts), he is challenged most by winter and the sense of alienation.  In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, we enter a state of anxiety. When Gawain encounters this, as a Christian Knight, he prays to the Virgin Mary.  The poem takes on feel of a world of irony vs. magic.  The castle‟s appearance invokes a sense of chaos and nature vs. magic, civility, and warmth.  The people instantly welcome and praise him (upon recognizing who he is). Gawain is now out of the danger zone and entered into a (temporary) safe place. He is then greeted warmly by the Lord of the Castle: “What is here is all of your own.”  The Lord of the Castle o Not old and in good shape. o The description uses a blend of natural and civilized (warm and majestic) imagery – “broad and bright was his beard, and all beaver-hued.”  Gawain is surrounded by complete decadence and safety, and therefore lets down his guard.  In romance, what one desires comes true; a sense of utopia.  The people wish to learn to speak like Gawain, and be like him in every way that they can. This goes to Gawain‟s head and he begins to ride on his ego and pride.  Love and devotion of the Lord‟s lady ennobles Gawain.  The Lady and the old maid are FOILs of each other. (One is aligned with whiteness and the other with darkness.) Out of courtesy, Gawain offers his services to both of them. Emphasizes speaking courteously and properly to people (specifically the ladies).  Gawain greatly admires hierarchy and the rights that it entails.  Having his guard down, Gawain simply sees the two ladies of the castle as simply ladies. They are what they appear to be (he feels as though he has nothing to be suspicious of); in this quest he believes he has nothing to fear. However, as readers we know that Gawain is in the strange mystical place filled with unpredictability.  Upon announcing his departure, the Lord invites Gawain to stay longer. He agrees and promises to obey his wants and rules. The Lord tells Gawain to stay and relax. Thus Gawain believes that this testing has ceased and he is relieved. Ironically the test occurs when he least expects it – he is truly still in the wasteland, and just doesn‟t recognize it. The devil comes in the thief of the night!  The poem begins with a game/challenge, and is faced with yet another one (a game of exchange). As an honourable knight, he must be loyal and faithful to his promise. Fit 3  The Lord and Gawain are fundamentally different. While Gawain is extremely civilized, it is as though the Lord is very close to nature.  Structure of the 3 days: Waking in the morning/bedroom scene, killing of the beast/the hunt, return to the castle, the swap, and then ends with mass.  However, things do not stay the same over the course of the three days. The challenge increases as each day goes back. The challenges become harder and it is more difficult to succeed. The animals also change: deer  boar  fox. Because it is medieval, everything is hierarchized (the great chain of being). The bottom of the pile is the fox – a liar and a thief. It is harder and harde
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