Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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The Color Green Symbol Analysis

The Color Green Symbol Icon
Colors are very important markers in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. When the figure of the Green Knight first intrudes upon Arthur’s court, his green complexion immediately marks him as a supernatural character, and his magical ability to survive beheading thus seems to somehow come from or be connected to his greenness. But green also is a traditional reminder of the natural world. As the poet describes the seasons, the weather, and images of hunting, the color green reappears as a symbol of nature, unbound by the rules of the court but with its own order of death and regeneration, predator and prey. With this double meaning of green as a symbol of both the supernatural and the natural in place, the poet plants a lot of green symbols into the plot. These symbols can be read in various ways over the course of the poem. Like the green girdle that Bertilak’s wife gives to Gawain, which at first represents protection from danger but comes to stand for Gawain’s failure. There’s also the Green Chapel, where the climax of Gawain’s moral journey takes place, and is the meeting place of the supernatural, religious, and natural forces that impose on Gawain.
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The Color Green Symbol Timeline in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Color Green appears in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-490
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
The intruding man is handsome and well-proportioned, despite his massive size, and he is completely green in color. Every piece of his elaborate costume is green, with gold details. He holds... (full context)
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...the head toward them, and tells Gawain to find him a year’s hence in the Green Chapel. And as suddenly as he arrived, the knight is gone. (full context)
Lines 491-1125
Chivalry Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...offers him a longer stay but Gawain refuses, saying he must journey on to the Green Chapel and complete his challenge. The lord is pleased to explain that he knows exactly where... (full context)
Lines 1126-1997
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...she offers a ring, but when he refuses, she offers a less expensive keepsake, a green girdle. When she tells Gawain that the magic of the girdle ensures the wearer protection... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Gawain dresses, hiding the girdle underneath his clothes. He goes to the chapel to confess his sins and, having been... (full context)
Lines 1998-2531
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...is shined as brightly as it was when he left Camelot, and he wraps the green girdle around his waist. He mounts Gringelot, thanks and blesses the court and rides out... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
The servant brings him close to the Green Chapel but stops before reaching it, saying that he will not accompany Gawain to the doomed... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...high banks of rock and cliffs that cast shadows on his path. He sees a grassy mound ahead but when he gets closer, he realizes that it is hollow like a cave.... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...hunt. The Knight explains that on the third day, Gawain was deceptive and hid the green girdle from his host, so received one nick from the axe. Gawain is shocked to... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...the best and bravest of Arthur's knights. Gawain, ashamed at his failure to return the green girdle to his host, rushes to untie it from his waist and offers it to... (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
...by women then he can forgive himself for being similarly tricked. Gawain does accept the green girdle, not for its material value, but to remind him of his weakness. (full context)
Chivalry Theme Icon
The Natural and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Legend, Fame, and Reputation Theme Icon
Games, Rules, and Order Theme Icon
...adventures on the way. His neck wound heals and he enters Arthur’s court wearing the green girdle like a sash. He is greeted with joy and love. He confesses the whole... (full context)