Okay I am doing an essay over " Sir Gawian and the Green Knight " We had to chose a symbol and the symbol I chose was the axI am having trouble explaining from the story of what the ax...

Okay I am doing an essay over " Sir Gawian and the Green Knight " We had to chose a symbol and the symbol I chose was the ax

I am having trouble explaining from the story of what the ax means which to me it meant death. And I can't think of a way to describe it

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Keep in mind, too, that when the Green Knight and Gawain come together after the year of Gawain's quest has passed, it also represents both life and death.  Gawain has not completely failed in his honor, if he had, the Green Knight most definitely would have chopped off Gawain's head from which he would not jump up, grab his head, and ride off into the sunset as the Green Knight had done.  Because Gawain is true to his chivalric code, he is forgiven and spared after three strikes of the ax.

merehughes's profile pic

merehughes | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

You could look at it from the way of a comparison. The Green Knight arrives with an ax in one hand and a branch of holly in the other. The holly represents life and the ax, death.  Therefore his arrival at the court portends both life and death.  I would look through the text and find exact references to the ax and try to fit it into the role of foretelling death.  

For example, in Part One, Verses 11 to 21, the Green Knight says he comes in peace, yet Arthur's men challenge him.  The Green Knight then offers his ax to them.  The deal is that the person who chops off the knight's head must come and seek him out in a year. Obviously, they think he is crazy and so Gawain takes the offered ax and cuts off the Green Knight's head.  

Here, the ax has been used to try and get the message across that men must go through a transition of using the ax to recklessly seek out danger and feeling safe just because they have an ax to learning how to wield the ax in times of real danger.

Check out the analysis sections on enotes for more details about how the ax can be interpreted in different sections.

I hope this helps. 

xxxsweetrosexxx's profile pic

xxxsweetrosexxx | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Okay just to let every teacher know I am done with this essay like some time ago so please just to let you know don't answer this question. I apprecate everyone's help and it helped me alot for the others well...Kinda late lol. Anyways thanks for the help and I will come to you when I need help on any other essay !! Thanks

xstarlitxnitex's profile pic

xstarlitxnitex | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

think of it this way. if the ax is what you chose for your symbol then try to use an archetype, something that recures often enough in the story that becomes recognizable as an element of the characters overall experience, then just work around it. the ax can represent strength, fear, or as you said, death. it can be a symbol of death because of all the lives taken by it. it is also a symbol of darkness bc of the way he bluntly challenges knights to step up to behead him and he knows that once it is his turn that the knight that took the challenge cant just get up and walk away. he will surely die....

hope this helped out a little....good luck

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