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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

by Pearl-Poet
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In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, discuss how the author explores symbolism within the setting. Compare Arthur's Court with the Green Chapel to develop the themes explored in the text. Give a clear thesis, two topic sentences, and clear conclusion.

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In regard to the meaning attached to the setting, King Arthur’s Court and the Green Chapel are presented as direct opposites but also mutually dependent. The court, Camelot, represents good: a healthy, normal, and orderly society; in contrast, the Green Chapel represents evil, as it embodies deception and challenges to the social order, including the profanation of a supposedly sacred space. Just as Gawain must be tested and overcome the temptations of evil, the image of good depends on the contrast to its opposite. Another symbolic pairing occurs through the Green Knight’s intrusion into the space of Camelot and Gawain’s entry into the chapel.

The importance of the courtly space includes the unity it represents, as it is the location of the tale’s beginning and end. At the outset, Arthur presides over his knights, and the court celebrates a holiday feast together; the joy of the religious components is on par with the social harmony. The dark, cavelike Green Chapel has as a frightening, not a welcoming, appearance, and it is located in a forest and far from court. It should, by its name, be a religious place, but the only events that occur there are attempts at killing. Gawain shows he is flawed by his dishonesty in withholding the girdle, thus further profaning the space.

Once Gawain has endured his travails and bested the Green Knight, he can and must return to Camelot. The goodness of the court lies not in the embodiment of abstract perfection, but in its demonstrated ability to absorb flawed humans such as Gawain.

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