In this section of the poem, I wanted the analyze the color selection of the Green Knight.
Normally in these types of stories, King Arthur or any other heroic quest, the challenger that comes to the door is a dark or black knight; I wanted to understand the meaning behind the color green in the poem. One of the most prominent examples of the green significance was when the Green Knight brought in a holly branch in one hand, instead of carrying traditional knightly weapons, and a large axe in the other. These two objects predominately connect him to nature and the greenness of all other clothes, skin, hair and his horse supports the idea that green represents nature. The Green Knight’s investigation of Gawain makes him very aware of his strong survival instinct, after the “scraps with serpents and snarling wolves…or with bulls and bears and the odd wild boar.” If the Green Knight is associated with nature, then he could control these animals to test Gawain’s survival skills and prove himself worthy. Many of the people, places, and things in the poem that are green have an important relationship with nature and the land. Yet despite his mystical appearance, the Green Knight is not monstrous in his physical characteristic like one might expect. He is, however, a bigger, embellished version of the exemplary knight that King Arthur is said to symbolize.
In contrast, if the Green Knight represents nature, then Sir Gawain must represent humanity attempting to capture or control nature. By agreeing to terms of the Green Knight’s deal, Gawain is seen trying to influence nature, and then dominate it after beheading the Green Knight. The similarities that this poem draws to Beowulf is very strong. In class, we discussed the relationship between the City and the Greenworld and this poem seems to be discussing the same ideas. The distinction between Arthur’s court and the Green Chapel shows the difference between Arthur’s civilized world—ruled by codes of chivalry and love, where the Chapel—natural world—is a more chaotic place. Even at Sir Bertilak’s castle, his hunting demonstrates men’s efforts to dominate and impose order over this world. Yet in the end, the two characters that appear to adhere to civilization’s code the best, also have the natural world within them. Both Sir Gawain and Sir Bertilak allow the natural world to win out over his code of knightly honor.
The sharp divide between man and the natural world may not be as realistic as one thinks.