Sir Gawain and the Green Knight utilizes the convention of the French-influenced romance. What sets this work apart from regular Arthurian or chivalric romances is the poets departure from this convention. The clearest departure takes place at the resolution of the piece as the hero, Sir Gawain, is stricken with shame and remorse rather than modest knightly pride, even after facing what appears to be certain death and returning to his king alive and well.
Although this manner of closure would leave much to be desired for an audience who is interested in reading a ridigly conventional romance, the coexistence of the romantic convention with the departure from it inspires questions concerning why the author would choose to work within such guidelines and what the significance is of breaching those guidelines. By employing the chivalric convention in romantic literature and then going beyond it to reveal other ways of thinking, the writer challenges the very notion of chivalric conventions of the surrounding social climate. He demonstrates throughout the work a need for balance.
As symbolied by the pentangle worn by Sir Gawain, representing the balanced points of chivalric virture, each being codependent of the other in order to remain a whole, the narrative could be considered as a What accompanies an appreciation for the seemingly sudden shift from the typical romance at the end of the piece is the raised awareness that the change does only seem to be sudden. Careful exlporation of the plot, setting, and character descriptions illuminates several deviations from the established convention of the ideal society existing within the text.
The effect is then a type of balancing act– blah blah blah The opening of the piece sets a fairly typical stage for an Anthurian romance, giving relevant historical and geographical information. King Arthurs court is going on as it is expected to be within the social constructs, merrily feasting and celebrating the Christmas holiday. The entrance of the Green Knight into Arthurs court marks a significant He is a courtly figure from their recognizable world. He appears as a knight ought to appear: tall, handsome, and fashionably dressed; however, the Green Knights adherence to the conventions of the court is offset by his departure from that world.
He has very unfashionable long hair and a beard; and, most noticably, he and the horse accompaning him are a stunning color green. The author brings to question what his motives are by juxtaposing his possession of holly, a sign of peaceful intent, with the monstrous axe he weilds. The fusion of human and supernatural characteristics add to the ambiguity of the piece, the balance between conventional and non-conventional, and give the first sign that the construction of the narrative is dependent on this balance.
The ‘match’: a game, yet implies death Arthur swings with the temperment and yet nothing happens. The response of the Green Knight is completely passive. When Gawain intervenes, it can be seen in two ways, that he is intervening with the courtly manner of a true knight of the Round Table, or with an implied criticism of Arthur for involving himself in such a challenge and on the court for letting this to take place. This brings about questions of the reputation of the Round Table and of the truth of the chivalric nature of the knights in the court.