Allegorical Garden of Eden in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Allegorical Garden of Eden in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Green helmet. Green body. Green blood. Such descriptions refer to a central character in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight--they depict the appearance of Bercilak as the Green Knight. The use of "green" is a reflection of Garden of Eden imagery in the poem that portrays the Green Knight as a tempter, a serpent, in the garden, Arthur’s court. In Genesis’ account of Eden, Adam and Eve live in a perfect, pure garden until the evil, green serpent successfully tempts them. When the serpent tells Eve that consuming fruit from the forbidden tree--the one God warned them not to eat from--will result in the same knowledge God holds, Eve convinces Adam to eat the apple. According to
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During this feast, the knights and their guests eat lavishly and drink in excess--they have "all the meat and mirth that one could devise" (45) and celebrate "In peerless pleasures . . ." (50). The feast depicts a worldly paradise with knights who act as they desire, as Adam and Eve were allowed to in Genesis. However, Gawain’s garden in not without sin.

The existence of sin is evident in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The sin in Gawain’s garden results from chivalry. The code of knighthood Gawain and other knights follow includes courage and loyalty to one’s lord. This courage and loyalty carries with it a sense of pride for the knights, pride that causes them to sin. Thus, Gawain fails to follow a life of purity, for as he follows the code of knighthood, he participates in Christian sin--murder, drunkenness, pride. For instance, when the Green Knight gives an offer to Arthur’s court to play the beheading game, he initially receives no volunteers. However, as Arthur attempts to participate, Gawain steps up and takes his place, for it is his role to be loyal and fight for his lord. This is evident when he states, "My body, but for your [Arthur] blood, is barren of worth; / And for that this folly befits not a king, / And tis that I have asked it, it ought to be mine" ( 357-359). This, then, leads him to sin, to chop off another man’s head.

Sin is evident even before the Green Knight’s entrance--the knights succumb to physical pleasures during the

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