TOPIC IDEAS FOR SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT
Topic Suggestions for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
1. Explore the symbolism of the green girdle. What does the girdle represent? What is at stake when Gawain accepts the green girdle from the Baron’s Lady? How might we consider his acceptance of the girdle to be the climax of the narrative? How does the Green Knight, a.k.a., he Baron, respond to Gawain’s use of the green girdle? How does the green girdle come to represent many different Christian values and ideologies? Why does Camelot come to wear green girdles at the end of the poem?
2. In Part 4, the Green Knight and Gawain agree that all their problems can be blamed on women. Do you think we’re meant to take the “woman blaming” ending seriously or to question it, and therefore (perhaps) to question the entire misogynist tradition to which Gawain alludes?
3. Explore how the Genesis story of the Fall plays a vital role in the poem. What aspects of the Genesis story inform the poem? How does the Christian content serve as instruction for the audience? What aspects of fallen human nature does the poem explore?
4. How has Gawain been tested / challenged in his journey / quest in the poem? What is the nature of a test in the context of a Knight and, by extension, the rest of us in the world? How do you think Gawain has fared his challenge? Does he return to Camelot in triumph, humility, or perhaps a bit of both?
5. What forms of love (brotherly love, spiritual love, courtly love, erotic love, and so forth) exist in the text, and in what types of relationships do they appear (friendships, marriages, relationships with God, and so forth)? Does love most commonly manifest itself as suffering or as ennoblement? Why do you think so many scholars analyze this text as part of the courtly love tradition?