Color Symbolism In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight

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Color plays a major role in storytelling, becoming more than mere adjectives. In the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, three colors are recurrent throughout the plot: red, green, and gold. The Gawain poet uses these colors first to describe his main characters. However, the colors take on a life of their own and become representations of the characters’ personalities, the lessons they learn, and their connections to another character or object. By understanding the meaning of green, red, and gold in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, readers can learn more about the characters’ personalities and connections to one another. When the Green Knight is first introduced, there is not a spot on him that is not green. His hair, his clothes, and…show more content…
The Green Knight carries renewal, life, and growth with him, which is also associated with the color green and the season of spring. After he accepted the Knight’s challenge, Gawain’s comrades gained a new respect for him. He was no longer “the weakest of [Arthur’s] warriors and feeblest of wit” (Fitt 354), instead his fellow warriors described him as “a lord so noble” (Fitt 675) and lamented his imminent death because “to find his equal on earth would be far from easy” (Fitt 676). The Round Table’s opinion of Gawain were renewed when he faced the Green Knight. The Knight also brought unexpected life to Gawain, after Gawain proved to be honorable and honest, as a knight should be. Because Gawain passed most of his tests, the Green Knight’s final blow was “far from being fatal… just skimming the skin” (Fitt 2311-2312). Gawain expected to die, yet the Green Knight granted him life. The Knight also brought growth to Gawain. As a loyal knight, Gawain should have been ready and willing to die on a moment’s notice for his lord. However, Gawain treasured his life and willingly violated his code of ethics to save himself. After being spared, Gawain realized “the frailty of his flesh is man’s biggest fault” (Fitt 2435), allowing him to reexamine his life and learn from his mistakes. Because Gawain encountered the ordeal, the Green Knight was able to…show more content…
It is “a green silk girdle trimmed with gold” (Fitt 1832), which happens to be the same colors worn by the Green Knight. The girdle serves as foreshadowing to the reader. By connecting the belt with the Knight, the poet hints of the Knight’s identity and that the girdle will play a part in Gawain’s trial. The Knight himself confirms the connection when he first tries to return the girdle to Gawain, proclaiming, “this gold-trimmed girdle I present as a gift, which is green like my gown” (Fitt 2395-2396). Furthermore, the girdle gained a deeper meaning when Gawain chose to wear the girdle as a sash over his red uniform, “[a] symbol of shame… a sign of [his] fault and offence and failure, of the cowardice and covetousness [he] came to commit” (Fitt 2506-2508). Green oftentimes represent illness and poison, which can lead to death. Likewise, the girdle almost cost Gawain his

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