Free Writing

Post Reading thoughts on Wuthering Heights

Okay I’m going to be bold and say it- literally what is this book. WHERE IS THE LOVE STORY? I don’t understand this book at all and I really feel those 19th century writers when they were like nah to Emily and yah to Charlotte.

Let’s look at HC for a bit, because this suicidal mess is nuts. So I feel like the super natural element was really low key in this book, low key as in the reader really didn’t think about it too much besides the weird beginning which is actually the ending (have you read This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz? Literally the same idea there) but the whole I’m-going-to-dig-up-Catherine’s-grave-so-I-can-have-her-body-because-I wasn’t-able-to-have-her-body-in-life-and-yet-I walk-the-moors-with-her-because-her-soul-has-always-been-with-me thing is so weird. He should have pulled a Bertha and jumped out a window and been done with it. Is he mad? Nelly really works hard to make sure that he isn’t really seen that way, and even there at the end Nelly really tries to get the reader to sort of pity HC, but honestly when he dug up the grave that was it for me I was so against HC its insane. Again, HOW IS THIS A LOVE STORY?

Nelly really set the stage for the reader to feel sorry for Cathy pt 2 and honestly I felt bad for Edgar too. Edgar hated HC but honestly I almost forget all of the torture that occurred because HC tormented Isabella so much. It really would have been 20 times better if HC was actually a little slave boy and a product of the salve trade and then would have a better reason to torment and essentially single handedly tear down everything these families have. Then at least it would have been a commentary on the slave trade, sort of like what Charlotte did with Bertha.

Maybe HC is male Bertha, he was captured and tormented, fell in love, was shunned said love, and was just able to express it. I dunno man Wuthering Heights was wack though, give me the real love stories back.

Free Writing, On Prose

Thoughts on Jane Eyre

Okay so I think Jane Eyre has been pretty cool to reread, I read it for the first time when I was a senior in high school and had to do these awful chapter by chapter reading journals that were essentially this but more structured and for each chapter and it drove me crazy so I have really been avoiding doing this reading response but now that I have started it really isn’t so bad and I’m not sure if it is okay that I write comparably about Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre and more specifically about Jane vs Fanny because I am in 4 English classes and reading both of these at the same time I really was struck by similarities and differences and differences in the text and sometimes would be confused and think that one character had done something but it was actually the other. (Also I hope you’ve read Mansfield Park.)

It struck me the most that after being able to compare a female character as Jane and Jane Eyre as a whole novel to Fanny in Mansfield Park, that Jane really is a badass and a more feminist character than I would have thought when thinking about her on her own vs maybe my thoughts about feminist today. By being able to compare the two which have a similar time period and setting I can see that it really was brave of Jane to be so open, and so vocal about herself and her thoughts. I really thought it was interesting how often both of the novels talked about walking and walking in gardens and nature. The other thing is that compared to Edmund, who is Fanny’s cousin, Rochester is really a better male character and even though he locked his wife up Fanny marrying Edmund is like Jane marrying her cousin St. John (what is up w St. John being pronounced SIN GIN anyway? That’s weird and annoying.)

Paper

Searching for a Resolution; Tour of “The Dead” House

People interact with art for many different reasons, and one of those reasons is the transformation that a person’s intellectual and emotional state go through when using art. Books that have turned into movies have grown in popularity because of their ability to take the emotional feelings that have been created through a text and shape them to be recreated by the physical settings and description the text provides. This claim is similar to what Professor Fowler discusses in her work Art and Orientation. On page 596 and 597 Fowler states, “The usual motive of a person who turns to art, be it verbal, visual, or aural, is a desire for the virtual experience it offers…fiction provides this primary experience.” People read to escape, and authors understand that. Embedded in texts are cues for our mind and body to move through the text as if it were a physical location, “Art invites us by means of real and virtual sensory experience, into emotional or intellectual states and attitudes that combine into sequences” (Fowler 597). A story’s setting becomes that more important, and James Joyce’s The Dead follows this idea. The physical setting and movement in The Dead contributes greatly to the reader’s takeaway of the story, it creates tension, awkwardness, and unease in the reader which leads the reader to search for a resolution that will alleviate the tension and formulate a conclusion that will increase meaning of the story for the reader. This claim will also be supported with the physical space witness at the house which James Joyce based the setting of The Dead on.

 

Throughout The Dead the reader encounters situations which create awkwardness from physical situations that do not match the spatial or emotional ideas that are occurring. The story begins with just a situation like this, “Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet” (Joyce 151). Upon first impression of the story the reader is already encountering a sort of bustling-chaos that Lily is dealing with at the entrance of the house which creates a form of unease. It is also important to note that the story begins at the entrance of the house, following the first line a description of the hallway and pantry is noted. Fowler states on page 559, “…recall that buildings have an interface with the human bodies of their users, and that that interface is an important locus of design and analysis.” This is important to consider for Joyce’s opening of The Dead because when the text is closer inspected, it is realized that Lily really wasn’t run off her feet. The dinner party that is central to this text has been occurring for a number of years, “For years and years it had gone off in splendid style as long as anyone could remember”, so it would seem that Lily would be able to handle herself at the door (Joyce 151). Just as well, when at the physical house where The Dead is based off of it is apparent to see that the hallway, while not extravagant, is able to accommodate a large number of people. When our class shuffled in we were all able to file into the next room all while greeting Brendan Kilty and taking off our coats. This creates a discrepancy between the text and the way a body is oriented in the hall which continues to add to the awkwardness.

The time of year also is important to consider in this piece, as it is thought to have occurred on January 6th which is not even a week into the new year. Awkward situations occur most frequently when Freddy Malins arrives, “Besides they were dreadfully afraid that Freddy Malins might turn up screwed…and when he was like that it was sometimes very hard to manage him” (Joyce 152). This is important because “…his poor mother made him take the pledge on

New Year’s Eve” (Joyce 160). Freddy Malins has made a resolution to give up the drink, but in 6 short days (or possibly sooner) he has already reverted back to selective moments of sobriety. The gossip about his new year’s resolution makes it awkward for a reader who reads through his over the top compliment of Aunt Julia’s singing performance. When someone vows to make a change for the coming New Year it is always interesting to see if they really will follow through with it. When we toured the house on January 6th I reflected on my own New Year’s resolutions and realized how little of an effort Freddy Malins must have given to have not even made it a week before he gave up sobriety.

Walking up to the second floor of the house we entered a large room with a chandelier and a square piano. This was where the dancing would take place. When considering the room size our whole group was able to stand comfortably inside, but what about a group’s ability to dance within those walls? Brendan Kilty mentioned that when Yeats and Lady Gregory came to view the house he had asked them to perform the Quadrille to see if there really was room and they were able to successfully. Imagining this room contributes greatly to the part with Miss Ivors and Gabriel. The French dance, Quadrille, is a slow dance which intertwines partners. In a room of that size depending on how many other couples were dancing as well there would be enough room for Gabriel and Miss Ivors to have their conversation in a hushed manner all the while putting on a warm show and front for the other people, “When their turn to cross had come he was still perplexed and inattentive. Miss Ivors promptly took his hand in a warm grasp and said in a soft friendly tone: -Of course, I was only joking” (Joyce 163). The text and dancing create two different orientations of what is occurring in the story. Miss Ivors carries on the dance as if between two friends, which is how it can be seen, but her words negate the warm demeanor

that is thought to be shown. This moment is especially awkward for Gabriel, and when Miss Ivors leaves the party despite the protests it leaves many unanswered questions for the reader.

Lastly, the ultimate unease and awkward situation is when after Gabriel and Gretta speak of Michael Furey and Gabriel settles in the bed next to his wife. The last pages of the text builds tension between Gretta and Gabriel. Before they say their goodbyes to the dinner party Gretta stands on the staircase listening to Mr. D’Arcy sing, and Gabriel looks on and watches her, but at first does not know it is his wife, “A woman was standing near the first flight, in the shadow also. He could not see her face but he could see the terracotta and salmon pink panels of her skirt which the shadow made appear black and white. It was his wife” (Joyce 182). This lack of recognition is curious, and could foreshadow the lack of connection between the Conroys that Gabriel thinks about later in the evening. After viewing the stairs though, the way they twist makes one realize it could completely be possible that Gabriel really couldn’t see her face and was only when he really looked was he able to make out that it was his wife. The text does work here to create some distance between the couple, physically on the stairs as well as emotionally with the connection of the song. When they arrive at the Gresham they talk of Michael Furey and after Gretta cries herself to sleep, Gabriel settles next to her, “He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife” (Joyce 193). In terms of orientation this is a very strange manner of position for a husband to take. The use of the word cautiously feeds into the awkward feeling of distance that has occurred between the two, and yet if he really meant all of the conflicting emotions he has about how close they really are he wouldn’t have taken such an intimate position of lying next to his wife.

All of these situations create an awkward and uneasy feeling in the reader which forces the reader to search for a solution to these feelings, just as Gabriel does in the ending of the

 

story. The main question though, would be if the story truly has a resolution and what it would be? Through the text and the orientations that are given, there is no real resolution to the story, but it is the search for a resolution that gives meaning to the reader and the story. Without this uneasiness the reader would be content with what is occurring in the story and there wouldn’t be a need to contemplate the ending further and it is the ending paragraphs that make this story one of the greatest. The reader identifies with Gabriel, who is trying to reach for a conclusion about life and it is this big picture reflection that the reader is doing as well and leads to such an impactful ending.

In conclusion, there are many areas in James Joyce’s The Dead which bring up awkward, uneasy, and tension filled moments that lead a reader to have unanswered questions. The conflict of orientation and text fuel this. The physical setting of the house on Usher’s Island contributes to this idea of conflict by negating some of the texts suggestions and agreeing with the underlying message, such as Lily not really being run off her feet because of the large space of the house’s entrance and the habitual dinner party, Freddy Malin’s shortcomings on his New Year resolution, the conflict of Miss Ivors warm dance and sharp words, and the distant feelings and intimate positions that are shared between Gabriel and Gretta. It is because of these ideas that the reader searches for an answer that is not available at the end of the story and is able to create their own meaning from the powerful last paragraphs, thus taking away a greater sense of understanding from the story than they would any other way.

Paper

A Prayer for my Father; Why Read Yeats

A majority of what I’ve learned in life is from my Father. He has always been a role model for me throughout my academic career. I grew up going to the local public library with him, and it is from him where I get my love of English and literature. While my Father has always encouraged my love of literature, he has never understood my fascination with poetry, and although I will be writing this paper for a student of our age who is interested in poetry I can’t help but also have my Father in mind.

I believe that out of all the poets we have read this semester the one who made the biggest impression on me was William Butler Yeats. I believe that he has a lot to offer those who have spent a good amount of time studying poetry, and those who have spent no time in poetry. The best reason to read Yeats is because he memorializes and romanticizes a fondness of home through his works about Ireland, he works through pressing issues, internal and external, through dialogues in his poetry which explore both sides of an argument, and he artfully engages with political matters through his writing as well. All of these reasons are insightful to the modern day reader. My Father has always said that poetry was a luxury, to have time to contemplate the meaning of a work was something he didn’t have, but Yeats is ready for anyone at any time.

The meaning of home has been a theme throughout my life, and is a theme for many college students across the country. Home can be many things, it can be a physical house with family and loved ones, it can be a location on a map where memories were made, or home can even be a single person. For William Butler Yeats, home is Ireland and its beauty is captured and memorialized through his poetry about it. One of the best poems to exemplify Yeats’s fondness of home is the tranquil and peaceful tone that is his poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Yeats lived in London with his family and while walking through Fleet Street he is noted in his autobiography to have heard the tinkle of water from a fountain in a shop window and was wrenched with homesickness for Ireland. This is what inspired one of his most famous works. The first phrase in the poem, “I will arise and go now”, are repeated in the beginning of the first and last stanza. The word ‘arise’ begins the poem with a positive connotation which is important to note because the other words in the poem might give it a sense of being a somber and quaint poem, with phrases such as ‘small cabin’, ‘live alone’, and ‘pavements gray’. It is the use of these two tones together that create the sweet sadness of homesickness. In the first two stanzas this poem is describing Yeats’s home, he is romanticizing the hum of bees and the peace he feels when he is at home, “And I shall have some peace there” stated in line 5, but in the last stanza he is brought back to his London reality.

“I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement gray,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”

 

While some might think it is a sad reality check, Yeats is happy that he has such a fond home that he can always carry with him in his heart. This idea is so central to college students because college can be a difficult time being away from home. Even after 3 years of college and living away from my Reston home I still can feel homesick on a gloomy, rainy day. When you feel this way though, you should read The Lake Isle of Innisfree because even when away from home the warmth of home is a feeling you can always remember, and when away from home you can always know you have a place to go to, even if it is just “in the deep heart’s core”.

With the same idea of home, while looking through Yeats’s poetry specifically about Ireland or of his home of the tower the poem To Be Carved on a Stone at Thoor Ballylee could be over looked, but I believe it is one of the most romantic memorialization of his home. It is only one stanza, and no more than 6 lines long but the title itself carries the purpose for the poem, “to be carved on a stone at Thoor Ballylee”. Yeats restored the old Norman tower (thoor) to be his home, and this poem is an explanation of specific pieces of information that represent his home.

“I, the poet William Yeats,

With old mill boards and sea-green slates,

And smithy work from the Gort forge,

Restored this tower for my wife George;

And may these characters remain

When all is ruin once again.”

 

This poem holds a key concept for Yeats’s idea of home, which is stated in the last two lines. While in this specific poem he is referencing that the characters of this work be forever engrained on his home even after time passes and ‘all is ruin once again’, it also can be applied to his other works about Ireland, and other works about his feelings and thoughts that will remain of importance no matter what the world weathers in the future and after his time. This is of a similar concept to the words of a parent or professor, or the impression of home on a college student that will remain even when things seem to be in ruin, during finals for example, the characters and impressions of home and comfort will always remain.

Lastly, Yeats uses A Prayer for my Daughter to convey ideas of home in relation to a person. Yeats’s is mostly noted to be a dark poet who often doesn’t have a lot of positive outlooks but this is one of the poems that pushes back on that idea. In this poem he values the idea of his daughter having a stable home, in which a college student can read this a be reminded of the stability that home brings and the love of a parent which can also be considered home. The two points in this poem that relate to this idea the most are in the sixth stanza where Yeats wishes that his daughter is a tree, “Oh, may she live like some green laurel/ Rooted in one dear perpetual place”. The simile used to describe his daughter as a tree and the use of the word perpetual gives the idea that in a home there is a hope for stability and permanence. Just the same in the last stanza he brings up the idea of home again, “And may her bride-groom bring her to a house/ Where all’s accustomed, ceremonious;” This is a valid wish for any parent and student to feel. This poem means a great deal to me because my Father means home to me, and I’m sure family members mean home for other students as well, which they can find in this Yeats poem.

Similarly, students of today are continuously faced with issues of identity, of morality, and of the future. Yeats also faced these issues and often times used his poetry to look at both sides of an issue and work through his thoughts and ideas. Intellectual students consider everyday issues that impact them and the world such as if acting on feelings is the right path to choose, what is right and wrong in the world and what ultimately makes a good person? Yeats contemplates these questions as well through different poems such as, In Memory of Major Robert Gregory, and Vacillation.

In In Memory of Major Robert Gregory Yeats contemplates death and what makes an ideal man. The loss of someone is something that many students have faced, myself personally. In January of this year, my friend Paul Kim passed away. Paul was someone who I went to school with since middle school and we both transferred to UVA in the Fall of 2015. I had never lost someone close to me and when I read the first stanzas of In Memory of Major Robert Gregory I think of him. “Now that we’re almost settled in our house/ I’ll name the friends that cannot sup with us” are the opening lines of the poem. Paul and I were almost settled into our home of UVA and Charlottesville together, but now he can no longer sup with myself or our friends. When I spoke on Paul’s behalf at the UVA student memorial in Old Cabell I heard other students memorialize their friends and classmates in their own written speeches just as Yeats does in this poem. We contemplate the people we have lost just as Yeats does through his stanzas and eventually contemplate what makes an impact of a good person just as Yeats does about Major Robert Gregory. The repetition of the lines, “Soldier, Scholar, Horseman, he,” focuses on what Yeats attributes to be memorable traits of his dear friend but those words can also be applied to mean other things for a student who has lost someone today. A soldier can be someone who was loyal and brave, a scholar is very applicable to a student who has lost someone who may have mentored them or as in my case someone I’ve gone to school and taken classes with for over 5 years, horseman might not seem relevant but it could mean someone who had an affection for animals or someone who was in touch with nature.

Also later in stanza 11 of In Memory of Major Robert Gregory, line 81 states;

“Some burn damp fagots, others may consume
The entire combustible world in one small room

As though dried straw, and if we turn about

The bare chimney is gone black out

Because the work had finished in that flare.

…What made us dream that he could comb gray hair?”

 

Here Yeats is contemplating death, and the idea that once someone’s purpose is fulfilled they are taken from the earth. Someone who was so bright that as though dried straw burned so bright and quickly that it is silly to think they would be around long enough to grow old like the rest of us. People who have lost loved ones may similarly think about why someone was taken from the living.

A similar dialogue of contemplation about life is voiced in Vacillation. It is most apparent in stanza 7 some of the distinct ideas that Yeats is discussing,

The Soul. Seek out reality, leave things that seem.

The Heart. What, be a singer born and lack a theme?

The Soul. Isaiah’s coal, what more can man desire?

The Heart. Struck dumb in the simplicity of fire!

The Soul. Look on that fire, salvation walks within.

The Heart. What theme had Homer but original sin?”

 

Yeats is considering a lot of things here in this stanza such as the importance of God and salvation, and contemplation of reality. Many students today have these exact same thoughts. Those who leave religious homes for the first time might be tempted to branch out and discover what life means without having that constant religious support, or if there really is a God and what does that mean for life if there isn’t? Should someone seek reality? What is life without sin? Yeats explores both sides of this issue through the poem but especially through the dialogue format show in this stanza.

Politics is also a matter that Yeats’s was very involved in and cared about. Politics is at the frontline of the college student’s world today. With disagreements between Conservatives and Liberals, a lack of communication and a lack of involvement America today can be thought of to be in political turmoil. As someone who struggled with his ideas of government and politics Yeats’s work can be a perfect place for students to work through the political differences occurring now. Seen previously Yeats obviously can work through two sides of an issue, which is something important that students of today could use especially in politics. The poem which depicts this idea best is Easter 1916.

The poem depicts the horrendous political event of the Easter Rising of 1916 where Irish nationalist revolted against the British government and proclaimed an Irish Republic. Yeats knew many of those who were killed personally, but through this poem he is able to see the people who would be typically depicted as monsters as real humans who he passed by on an everyday basis. “I have met them at close of day/… I have passed with a nod of the head” he described his encounters with the political radicals, humanizing them and understand them on a moral level. In the third stanza Yeats uses an extended metaphor to compare the political extremists to a stone in a river,

“Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.”

 

He uses this metaphor with hearts with one purpose alone to commend these people for so strongly believe in a cause they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their life for it.

It is this idea that resonates today and can be used by students of today to understand the politics on the other side of the isle. If you voted for Trump or if you voted for Hilary at the end of the day that vote is a person with feelings and a heart whose beliefs might differ from yours, but you are should be able to understand them from a human level.

In conclusion I believe there are many reasons to read Yeats, but the best are because his poetry show the many sides of his life and his humanity which is something that everyone shares. A college student can learn a lot from literature, and a lot from Yeats. William Butler Yeats offers a romantic memorialization of home, the ability to work through thoughts and issues from both sides of a dialogue, and an emphasis to engage with political matters artfully. As I read Yeats I am reminded of my Father, an intelligent and strong literary role model who I look to for advice and guidance, just as someone can look to Yeats’s poetry for as well.

Paper

The Suspicion of Courtliness

 

The stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the round table are stories that have been celebrated for hundreds of years. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is no different. What is most striking about this poem is the vivid imagery that comes from the description of the Green Knight. Whenever he is mentioned in the poem, either as himself or as Sir Bertilak, I feel the need to pay closer attention to the text. In the poem our hero Sir Gawain is put through tests by the Green Knight and it is determined that Sir Gawain has proved himself to be courtly enough for the Green Knight to approve King Arthur’s House which is so widely celebrated in the land. It is interesting that the Green Knight is allowed to make this judgement call about the House of King Arthur when his own actions create suspicion about his courtliness and should be examined closer. The discrepancies of the Green Knight’s characterization in the text causes the reader to be suspicious of courtliness in the text, this is shown through the conflicting language about his morality, the nature of his intention during his arrival in King Arthur’s House, and the language he uses when talking about himself and others.

The Green Knight can be regarded as a magical force that comes into the poem to judge the men of King Arthur’s Round Table, but even though the texts claims that he is mortal, the events that occur could lead a reader to think otherwise. In the first stanza that introduces the Green Knight the narrator says, “I should genuinely judge him to be half a giant, /or a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals” (FITT i. 140). While maybe the Green Knight is rather abnormally brawn and tall, he is still regarded as mortal and a man. This is contradicted though with the main feature of the Green Knight, “No soul had ever seen/ a knight of such kind/ entirely of emerald green.” (FITT i. 148). The Green Knight, incidentally, is totally and completely green. His skin, his hair and even his horse is green. The green tint of the knight’s skin suggests he is not a mortal being, as it is a feature that no other human possesses. The text emphasizes the hue of the Green Knight and describes greens in great detail, but to close that section the text brings us back to the idea that he is in fact human, “No waking man had witnessed such a warrior/ or weird warhorse- otherworldly, yet flesh/ and bone.” (FITT i. 196). Understandably, it is hard to believe that there is such a knight, which is why it is important for the text reference his ‘otherworldliness’ but it make the last point to say that he is of ‘flesh and bone’ and draws attention to it with a break in the stanza in the middle of the sentence.

If the Green Knight’s hue wasn’t enough to begin suspicions about his mortality, then the ability to have his head chopped off, still live and talk should be.

“Blood gutters brightly against his green gown,

yet the man doesn’t shudder or stagger or sink…

…cops hold of his head and hoists it high, …

For that scalp and skull now swung from his fist;

to the noblest at the table he turned the face

and it opened its eyelids, stared straight ahead

and spoke this speech…” (FITT i. 429-447)

 

This is the first part of the game that Sir Gawain has agreed to play with the Green Knight. After this happens the Green Knight gallops away, leaving the crowd shocked and in awe of what just happened. The specification of blood in this incident brings back the emphasis on the Green Knight’s mortality, but it is immediately contradicted because a major body part has been severed from his body and he is able to have his severed head speak to the tables before him and leave in a dramatic fashion. This is the last time we see the Green Knight as himself until the end of the poem and I think that is purposeful. To leave us with a magical and supernatural event leaves the reader in awe too, but also suggests that there is more to the Green Knight and that he is a character to watch. This turns out to be true, as he is then able to shape shift into Sir Bertilak which is essential to the plot of the poem.

Another discrepancy in the Green Knight’s characterization is the nature of the actions he takes when he arrives at King Arthur’s celebration, versus the nature of his language when being there. The Green Knight claims that he comes in peace, but there are many places where it might seem otherwise. When the Green Knight is first mentioned the text states “a fearful form appeared…” (FITT i. 136). If the Green Knight really means to come in peace, then why would the text use its first impression on the reader to show the Green Knight is actually a character to be feared? When the Green Knight speaks to King Arthur about the reason he has come he says, “Be assured by this holly stem here in my hand/ that I mean no menace…” (FITT i. 265). While it is true that this holly could be taken as a sign of truce and peace, just as well “…in the other hand held the mother of all axes, /a cruel piece of kit I kid you not:” (FITT i. 208). The Green Knight has a weapon in his hand, and even though he claims that the holly stem in his other hand cancels out any malicious intent it is very suspicious that he has such a weapon with him. The Green Knight is even described as a fiend, in FITT i, line 214, “The handle which fitted that fiend’s great fist”. The use of fiend suggests there is malicious intent that corresponds with that the axe in his hand. There is other language that follow this as well, the manner he is described to speak to Sir Gawain in FITT i, Line 377, “Then the Green Knight spoke, growled at Gawain:”. This should be noted because the first half of the line already described the action that is occurring. ‘The Greek Knight spoke’, it is that additional verb that brings attention to this strange way of describing the communication between the Green Knight and Sir Gawain.

The Green Knight’s game is also evidence of his deceitful entrance into the House of King Arthur,

“So at Christmas in this court I lay down a challenge:

if a person here present, within these premises,

is big or bold or red-blooded enough

to strike me one stroke and be struck in return,

I shall give him as a gift this gigantic cleaver

and the axe shall be his to handle how he likes.” (FITT i. 284-289).

 

The Green Knight’s game isn’t the real test of King Arthur’s court, even though he states that it is. The real test comes later when he has his wife confront Sir Gawain and test his loyalty and honesty while he is Sir Bertilak. This first part of the game is only to be able to have Sir Gawain held in a bond to come to find him later in the poem so he is able to test him as Sir Bertilak. Just the same he could have given his axe to Sir Gawain for a year’s time, and then asked that he return it and that also would have made it possible for the events with Sir Bertilak to occur. The gruesomeness of the Green Knight’s game also shows that he is a violent and malicious knight which contradicts his peaceful holly entrance.

One of the other discrepancies in the Green Knight’s characterization is the way he speaks to others, and about himself. If the Green Knight is who judges Sir Gawain to be the courtliest knight around then the Green Knight has to be a very courtly knight as well, but that is not what we get from him. When no one steps up to play the deadly game the Green Knight taunts the court,

“’So here is the House of Arthur,’ he scoffed,

‘whose virtues reverberate across vast realms.

Where’s the fortitude and fearlessness you’re so famous for?

…skittled and scuppered by a stranger- what a scandal!

You flap and you flinch and I’ve not raised a finger!’

Then he laughed so loud that their leader saw red. (FITT i. 309-316).

A courtly knight who wants no violence or harm to occur would not show up as a guest in a court on an important holiday celebration and taunt those who call said court home. He is also very boastful of himself, “If I’d ridden to your castle rigged out fir a ruck/ these lightweight men wouldn’t last a minute.” (FITT i. 281). He is claiming to be so powerful that men of one of the highest regarded courts would be mere lightweights and not able to compete with him at all. Being rude and being boastful as a guest in another man’s court is not someone who you would think to be the best judge of character. These characteristics also show later in the poem when Sir Gawain shows up to receive his blow, “Did I budge or even blink when you aimed the axe, / …or flap when my head went flying to my feet?” (FITT iv. 2274-2276). He again is boastful of himself and his own bravery, which is interesting to note because he is testing to see if Sir Gawain would do exactly what he is doing. The deceit that occurs from the Green Knight concealing his identity and playing the role of Sir Bertilak to test Sir Gawain is also a lie, which would count as a sin just as Sir Gawain lies and conceals the gift he received from the Green Knight’s wife, “Because the belt you are bound with belongs to me;/…for it was all my work! /I sent her to test you…” (FITT iv. 2358-2362). The Green Knight knows that Sir Gawain was deceitful, just as his was by concealing his identity.

In conclusion the Green Knight’s characterization throughout the poem gives reason for the reader to be doubtful and mistrustful of the authenticity of his idea of courtliness. This creates the question of how much we should trust the Green Knight, and how does this impact how we view the ‘ultimate courtly knight’ Sir Gawain. If the reader cannot trust the Green Knight, as proved by the discrepancies of his characterization, then the reader also would have a hard time believing the characterization of Sir Gawain, and ultimately King Arthur’s court because the Green Knight approves of Sir Gawain as a representation of the Knights of the Round Table.