Contrast in Sir Gawain

January 22, 2017 General Studies

Within the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight there exists a marked contrast between images of ordered civility and those of untamed nature. The juxtaposing of opposite values is visible in the author’s portrayal of the weather in SGGK. The weather, and even more broadly, the seasons, are often observed to be nurturing, caring, and friendly forces in the world of SGGK. However, within a heartbeat thereafter they are depicted as possessing menacing, wicked, and malicious tendencies. This dual role played by the weather provides the audience with yet another powerful contrast, this one of the natural world, which seems to give and take in consecutive breaths.

Spring and summer, along with the weather they entail, are given many positive facets, and linked with joy in the world of nature. This weather is depicted as a protector of the flora and fauna, looking out for nature’s wants, and rewarding them. When spring arrives, it is a relief for the vegetation, as “fresh falls the rain in fostering showers “. The rain appears motherly, “fostering” growth, as a mother would for a child. These rains allow the plant life to put on “gowns of green “, which carries connotations of fanciness and gaiety. The plants are “glad” to receive a “gracious glance from the golden sun “. It is an overly merry picture, extremely reminiscent of the singing plants and smiling suns of Disney movies. These surreal qualities foreshadow the looming danger which is the winter.

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There is a sense of working together represented in the weather/flora interactions during summer. The wind is “soft “, and the carefree birds “blithely sing “. The sun does not begrudge the plants their light, or the clouds their rain, and it appears a perfectly harmonious package. The harmony is very strictly maintained however, and it becomes apparent that it is only a matter of time before the weather shifts its position. As the joyous season wanes and fades, it seems that the summer weather attempts one last protectoral action towards the plants it once maintained.


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