Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

compare the ways the lords three hunts parallel what is happening on gawains bedchamber.


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In analyzing Fitt III of the poem, it is impossible not to ignore the careful structuring of the three days of events, each with their parallel scenes of drama, both outdoors and indoors. On all three days, the structure is very similar: the lord hunts outdoors, while indoors, Sir Gawain is being hunted by the lady. At the end of each day, these two separate and very different hunts are brought together by the exchange of winnings between Gawain and the lord. The poet clearly intends to parallel the lord's hunting of beasts with the lady's hunting of Gawain. The very masculine pursuit of animals is thus equated to the lady's very feminine sexual pursuit of this chivalric hero.

But much more remains to be said about this deliberate parallel of hunting episodes. In many ways, this parallel de-constructs the superficial constructions of society which the poet has, throughout the poem, subtly questioned. By equating the delicate, artfully crafted pursuit of the knight to the rough, primal pursuit of the beasts, the poet has effectively reduced to basics all that medieval society has built up as the ultimate in chivalric behavior. The lady for the most part pursues Gawain by using complex flirtations and societal conventions that recall his sense of duty to a noble lady; yet she is banking on a very basic human instinct ­ lust. Their dialogue is complex, drawing upon many medieval attitudes to courtesy and humility. Yet what it all comes down to is something very primal, very (in a sense) uncivil and animalistic. Again, then, we get a sense of the falseness of societal constructions. As with the descriptions of luxurious clothes and architecture, the careful, diplomatic dialogue between Gawain and the lady is extremely complex. But ultimately, they are only used to mask the real nature of human lust ­ another example of societal artifice imposing itself falsely upon nature.