Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Christian based poem that aims at giving reference to the fall of man. In the poem, Sir Gawain is visited by a green knight in the form of a mysterious warrior. The knight then challenges sir Gawain to strike him with his ax in exchange for a blow in a year and a day. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and chops off the head of the knight in only one blow. To sir Gawain amazement, the knight stood up, took his head from the ground, and promises to meet him at the agreed time.
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This paper will discuss Christianity and magic in the poem. The aim of the discussion will be to give an insight into how these two value systems influence the characters and their actions in the poem.
To begin with, the poem has a Christian origin. It refers to the fall of man according to Christianity and extends all the way to the times of Jesus Christ. For example, the knight can be taken to represent the serpent that tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden. Sir Gawain in this case assumes the role of Adam. By accepting the offer given to him by the knight, sir Gawain fell just like Adam.
There is an element of magic when the knight stands up after sir Gawain chops its head off. The green knight himself and the girdle gave to sir Gawain to protect him from the ax are symbolic representations of magic. It is this element of magic that makes the poem revolves around a hero going through a quest to test his ability.
In the poem, Christian values such as faithfulness are portrayed by the act of sir Gawain of struggling to uphold his oath. However, sir Gawain failed to uphold this secret when he was tempted by the lady of the castle. The event of sir Gawain being tempted by a lady and falling into the lady’s craftiness has been influenced by Christianity. Just like Adam of the bible falls into the tricks of his wife, sir Gawain was tricked by a lady. The character of ladies in the poem of being tempting has been drawn from the biblical story of the fall of man.
The mysterious character of the knight is a symbolic representation of God. The knight promised to meet sir Gawain at the appointed time. This can be seen to represent the second coming of Jesus Christ. The knight was also supernatural as portrayed by its extraordinary color. Furthermore; the knight did not die after its head was chopped off by sir Gawain. This character of the knight has been influenced by the supernatural nature of God. Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead and promised to come on earth at the appointed time, the knight stood up after sir Gawain chopped off its head. The knight also promised to meet sir Gawain at the appointed time just as Jesus had promised his disciples.
In addition, after sir Gawain was judged worth during the test, he spared his people from doom. This is a perfect symbolic representation of the innocence of Jesus and his saving of humanity. The poem further represents salvation as a personal experience that is very difficult to communicate with other people. In depicting Camelot, the poet is seen to be concerned more about his society. Society, on the other hand, is portrayed as evil and thus its destruction is inevitable.
The character of Gawain towards the end of the poem refers to Christ’s crown of thorns. After Sir Gawain returned to Camelot and narrating the story of his acquired green sash, a prayer is said and Christ’s crown of thorns is referred to. Such character has its origin from the biblical story of the end times and the celebrations of victory in heaven. Throughout the poem, Sir Gawain goes through many trials to test his devotion and faith in Christianity. Prayer is offered as a solution to all trials. For instance, when sir Gawain got lost on his way to the green chapel, he made a prayer to the Virgin Mary. It was after masking this prayer when he discovered the way to the chapel.
In conclusion, all the action of the characters in Sir Gawain poem is greatly influenced by Christianity and magic. Most of the characters and their actions are a symbolic representation of how Christians should conduct themselves. The events in the poem happen mysteriously indicating the power of a superior being. This makes the poem very relevant to Christians because it teaches them a number of lessons (Beebe 255).
Beebe, Maurice. Age of Modernism. The University of Tulsa.