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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

by Pearl-Poet

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These are topics on which you can write a substantial anaytical paper. They are designed to test your understanding of major themes and details from the work as a whole. Following the topics are outlines you can use as a starting point for writing an analytical paper.

Topic #1

The major theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the hero’s passage to maturity. Along the way, he passes three major tests. First, he shows courage and initiative when he volunteers to take the place of Arthur and accept the challenge of the Green Knight. Second, he shows discipline, self-control and honor when he refuses the advances of Lady Bertilak. Third, he faces death when he keeps his appointment with the Green Knight. Review each of these episodes carefully, and notice the way Gawain changes.

When Gawain returns to Camelot after his adventure, his maturity seems to set him apart from his old companions, who are unable to understand what has happened. Something of the sort often happens to young people, who may outgrow their old companions. Have you ever had similar experiences? Can you think of anyone else who has?

Outline

I. Thesis Statement: The major theme of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the passage to maturity of the hero, Sir Gawain.

II. Introduction: Gawain and Camelot at the start of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

III. The First Test: The challenge of the Green KnightA. What Gawain demonstratesB. What Gawain learns

IV. The Second Test: Withstanding the attempt at seductionA. What Gawain demonstratesB. What Gawain learns

V. The Third Test: Facing deathA. What Gawain demonstratesB. What Gawain learns

VI. Conclusion: The return to CamelotA. How Gawain has maturedB. Gawain and the society at Camelot

Topic #2

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Arthur, Gawain and Bertilak/The Green Knight represent three respective visions of the medieval warrior. All three portraits are presented with some admiration, but none of them is entirely uncritical. Compare and contrast these three figures. By examining their strengths and weaknesses, decide what the Gawain poet thought of chivalry and its codes.

Outline

I. Thesis Statement: Arthur, Gawain, and Bertilak/the Green Knight each represent three respective visions of the Medieval warroir, presented with some admiration, but none of them is entirely uncritical.

II. Introduction: The warrior ideal in the Middle Ages

III. The figure of Arthur in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The strengths of ArthurB. The weaknesses of Arthur

IV. The figure of Bertilak/The Green Knight in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The strengths of BertilakB. The weaknesses of Bertilak

V. The figure of Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The strengths of GawainB. The weaknesses of Gawain

VI. Conclusion: What the Gawain Poet thought of Chivalry

Topic #3

There is certainly a rich range of feminine models in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, even though none of them are as fully developed as Sir Gawain or the Green Knight. All of them, without exception, are very powerful figures. Apart from the Virgin Mary, to whom Gawain is dedicated, all of them are also ambivalent, poised precariously between good and evil. The student will compare and contrast these various female figures, then see what, if anything, they reveal about the position of women in the late middle ages.

Outline

I. Thesis Statement: The female characters in Sir Gawain and The Green Knight Represent/do not represent the position of the women in the Middle Ages.

II. Introduction: The...

(This entire section contains 1059 words.)

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changing roles of woman

III. Guinevere in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. Guinevere as an inspirationB. Guinevere as a temptress

IV. Lady Bertilak in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. Lady Bertilak as a temptressB. Lady Bertilak as upholder of morality

V. Morgan le Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. Morgan le Fay as a pagan goddessB. Morgan le Fay as a force for good or evil

VI. The View of Women in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The Misogenistic Attack on Women by Gawain (lines 2416 – 2422)B. Gawain’s veneration of MaryC. Conclusion: The ambivalent roles of women

Topic #4

Three hunts are described in enormous detail in part four of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poem is, for this reason, a very important document of both the methods and the social significance of hunting in the middle ages. The hunt is also used as a metaphor or sexual pursuit when Lady Bertilak attempts to seduce Gawain.

Read the hunting scenes carefully. Note how the hunt was conducted and the emotions surrounding it. Then analyze, in as much detail as possible, the ways in which hunting is used as a metaphor for love or sex.

Outline

I. Thesis Statement: Hunting is used as a metaphor in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

II. Introduction: Love, Sex, Violence and HuntingA. Hunting as an act of violenceB. The hunt as a metaphor for sexual aggression

III. The hunt of Deer in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The Stag as the King of the ForestB. How the Stag tries to escape by runningC. How Lady Bertilak tried to seduce Sir Gawain during his first day in Hautdesert CastleD. How Gawain was like a stagE. The first exchange between Sir Gawain and Lord BertilakF. The high value placed on the Stag

IV. The hunt of the boar in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The boar as a symbol of fiecenessB. How the stag tries to escape by fightingC. How Lady Bertilak tried to seduce Gawain during his second day in Hautdesert CastleD. How Gawain was like a boarE. The second exchange between Sir Gawain and Lord BertilakF. The high value placed on the boar

V. The hunt of the fox in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The fox as a symbol of deceptionB. How the fox tries to escape by changing course and trickeryC. How Lady Bertilak tried to seduce Gawain during his third day in Hautdesert CastleD. How Gawain was like a foxE. The third exchange between Sir Gawain and Lord BertilakF. The low value placed on the fox

VI. The hunt as a metaphor in Sir Gawain and the Green KnightA. The parallels between Lord Bertilak’s hunting and Lady Bertilak’s attempt at seductionB. How the hunt combines sex and violenceC. Conclusion: The cultural meaning of the hunt

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Critical Evaluation