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Symbols And Symbolism In Sir Gawain And Green Knight

688 words - 3 pages

Symbolism in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

 

Symbolism is a literary technique used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to liven up the story and give a deeper significance to the plot.  Almost anything in the poem can be interpreted as a symbol in one way or another.  The Green Knight, the green sash, and Sir Gawain's shield are three of the most prominent symbols presented to us in this author's tale.

 

 

            The Green Knight, this poem's antagonist, serves as a symbol himself.  He is not only portrayed as evil, but a mixture of the familiar and foreign, nature and synthetic, and divine and damned origin.  His large stature can be interpreted as threatening or powerful.  His green glow could be nature-associated or alien-associated.  The first time he appears in the poem, he is even carrying a holly-branch (signifying peace) in one hand and a battle axe (signifying conflict) in the other.  It's hard to say exactly for what the Green Knight stands, because for every characteristic symbolizing one extreme, the other extreme is also symbolized.  Perhaps he stands for the Earth: for its familiar and foreign; peace and tempest; threatening and safe; evil and good attributes that exist in unity to make up this one giant ball of mass in the universe.  At the beginning he came for a dangerous game; we believe he wants to harm Sir Gawain.  In the end, it turns out that he planned the whole thing as a test for Gawain, knowing perfectly well that he would prevail, and that in the end, this whole ordeal would make him a stronger and better person. 

 

 

            The green sash is a smaller symbol in the story, yet serves quite a large purpose.  The green color signifies Gawain's cowardice, and the fact that he was going to encounter the green knight the next day.  The sash, supposedly able to keep him alive, was not the reason his life was spared, for the whole story was a test. ...

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