Nature Vs Humanity In Sir Gawain

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In "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," the theme of humanity against nature is a central conflict that Gawain faces. Sir Gawain's fear of his inevitable death is portrayed, affirming the weakness and mortality of human beings. Meanwhile, nature is able to constantly regenerate and restore itself, emerging as the superior force. Thus, through Gawain's struggles, the invincibility and the impregnable strength of nature is shown.

        Juxtaposing the forces of nature through the form of the Green Knight, sexual desire, and the fear of death, Gawain becomes the epitome of human frailty. When the Green Knight appears to propose the test, Gawain, like "all"¦household in [Arthur's] hall" (78), "[was] stiller"¦then," (77) and is hesitant to accept. However, Gawain's rightful duty as a Knight compels him to transfer that responsibility upon himself when Arthur accepts this challenge. Although he counters his dread by strict chivalric codes, Gawain's natural fear is aroused before the "largesse and loyalty belonging to knights" (472) come into effect.

Gawain, despite his definite training as a knight of valor, succumbs to his natural instinct of fear. Searching for the Green Chapel, Gawain is led to a castle, where he makes a pact with the lord to exchange winnings. He is then tempted by the lady for three days. Overcoming his carnal appetite, Gawain does not indulge in sexual activity, but his sense of morality struggles under his natural fear of death, causing him to accept the green girdle. Accordingly, Gawain's moral innocence is shattered as he violates the code of honor that binds such a contract. While the green knight delivers his blow, Gawain's "shoulders [shrinks away]," (362) further displaying his cowardice that breaks away from chivalric virtues. Gawain's actions depict the ability of natural instincts to engulf the learned values of a knight.

        While weak morality plagues the mankind represented by Sir Gawain, Nature is able to constantly regenerate and rejuvenate itself, allowing it to come out as the superior force. Through the use of the color green, nature manifests itself as the Green Knight, who like nature, is invincible. The Knight, giant in stature and engulfed in green, is decapitated by Gawain. Merely "[laying] hold of his head" (204) and mounting the horse, the Green Knight is seemingly oblivious to the amazement of Gawain. His indestructibility is deeply contrasted to Gawain, whose mortality is evident. The Green Knight's sudden appearance on New Year's Eve also portrays nature. A day depicting death, it is when the Green Knight questions the mortality of Gawain. As much as Gawain would like to avoid the impending meeting with the Green Knight, nature relentlessly pushes time into winter. Through his journey, Gawain struggles to overcome naturalistic fear of death, only to find his morality shattered and nature still viable. The last day of the year opens up a whole new year. As death and birth is a continuous cycle of life, nature emerges superior over human frailty. Gawain, seeing his gilded innocence uncovered with corruption and weakness, repents of his mistakes and becomes assimilated into nature, discarding his lust for life and thereby becoming part of the cycle.

        Through his journey into perilous zone, Gawain learns that he cannot overcome his natural instincts. While Gawain's codes of honor shake and fall, nature stands invincible and invulnerable. Nature regenerates forever but human life is short. And hence mankind learns that they are a part of life, and nature cannot be challenged.