Gawain's Encounter with the Green Knight in the Green Chapel
Even though little is known about the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it is considered to be one of the greatest romances of all time. The poem tells the story of one of Arthur's noblest and most courageous knights, Sir Gawain, who is in search of the Green Chapel: "Sir Gawain ingeniously combines two plots, common in folklore and romance, although not found together elsewhere: the beheading contest, in which two parties agree to an exchange of blows with a sword or an ax, and the temptation, an attempted seduction of the hero by a lady" (Norton 200). The poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight deals with important themes and ideas such as nobleness, chivalry, knighthood, Christian ideals, truth, temptation, and hunting among others. The poem is also a "study [of] how successfully Gawain, as a man wholly dedicated to Christian ideals, maintains those ideals when he is subjected to unusual pressures" (Norton 200). The poet effectively uses literary devices such as alliteration, rhyme, irony, metaphor, symbolism, and imagery to reinforce his ideas and themes.
This passage of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight deals with Gawain's encounter with the Green Knight in the Green Chapel. The guide describes the Green Knight as a big, cruel, scary monster. He tells Gawain that because of his cruelty, no one wants to get in the vicinity of the Green Knight. He warns Gawain to not risk his life by going to the Green Chapel, and promises him that he will conceal everything. However, Gawain must face the Green Knight and face the hit, because he is noble, worthy, and courageous. He is not a coward. He says to the guide, "But though you never told the tale, if I turned back now, forsook this place for fear, and fled as you say, I were a caitiff coward; I could not be excused" (2129-2131). This is another test of Gawain's character.
The guide leaves and Gawain proceeds further. He has accepted the belt in hope that it will save his life, but incase it doesn't, Gawain has now put himself in god's hands. Gawain rides up the hill in the wild evil landscape. He realizes that the barrow is the Green Chapel. Upon seeing the evil landscape and the Green Chapel, he thinks that it is a chapel of mischance and the devil might live there. As he proceeds further, he hears the noise of the sharpening of an ax. Here the ax represents success. The noise becomes unbearable and Gawain calls out for the Green Knight. The Green Knight appears, but there is a river between him and Gawain. The Green Knight uses the ax as a vaulting tool to get over the river to the other bank where Gawain now is.
Gawain has promised to accept a hit, and so he bows his head down and bares his neck to receive the hit. Even though Gawain bares his neck to receive the hit, he is extremely cautious and fully aware of the Green knight's strength and the fact that he could be dead with just one stroke of the ax. The Green...