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The Hunt Vs. Temptation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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When reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Finn 3, the three hunting scenes and the three seduction scenes portrayed are parallel to one another. As the host goes out to hunt his game, Gawain is told to rest in the castle, on the agreement that he will give the host whatever he earns in the castle in exchange for the whatever he has hunted that day. The host goes out hunting for three days, tirelessly continuing until he has caught three animals: the deer, the boar, and the fox. During those three days, the host’s wife tries to seduce Gawain by metaphorically “hunting” him for his affection, trying to seduce him in different ways including trapping him in his room, questioning why he will not show her affection, and dressing seductively to earn his attention. While her husband has to use special tactics when hunting to kill each of the animals with their different behaviors, his wife uses different tactics in her hunt for Gawain’s love.

During the first hunt scene, the host of the castle goes out to hunt deer. The deer in the scene are passive creatures. They do not try to fight back or act aggressively, simply running away from the hunters chasing them. The deer are chased to a hillside where there is an obstacle that they can not pass, meaning that they were physically trapped during the hunt. Gawain was relaxing in the castle, when he was metaphorically trapped by the host’s wife because he was trying to sleep in his bedroom when she came in without warning. She locked the door and slowly crept up to where he was laying within a bed surrounded by canopies. The canopy bed serves as a symbol of entrapment, creating a physical barrier that Gawain could not escape from the lady “hunting” him. Gawain heard the sound of the door opening, but instead of reacting, he simply laid in the bed and faked sleep which is parallel to how the deer acted passively in the hunting scene. This made Gawain the “prey” in this scene as the deer was pray to the hunters. The seduction scene continues as the host’s wife tells Gawain that he can have her because everyone in the castle is away and no one will know. She also tells him that he would have been her first choice for a husband over her own. Gawain tells her that he cannot be with her because her husband, who she is married to, is a better suit for her than he is. She finally relents, but does not leave without, what she refers to as a kiss of “courtesy,” such as all knights give a lady. At the end of the day, he gives the host a kiss, though he does not tell that the kiss was from his wife.

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In the second hunting scene, the host goes out to hunt a wild boar. The wild boar is an aggressive animal, wounding many of the host’s men and dogs before being fatally wounded by a slash across the throat by the host’s sword. The host’s wife in this scene acts more aggressively than she did the first time that she tried to seduce Gawain. She scolds him for not remembering the lesson she taught him about kissing out of “courtesy” the day before. He defends himself by telling her that he did not want to force a kiss on someone who would reject him. She becomes more aggressive, and invites him to the use of violence, saying that he should force a kiss if any woman were foolish enough to reject his advances. He rejects her advances and tells her that this is not acceptable behavior and that he can give a kiss if a lady is willing. After telling her this, he kisses her. Then, the lady tries to seduce him again by telling him that he should teach her about courtly love, but Gawain rejects her advances by saying she is far more knowledgeable than he is, shutting down her efforts for that day, though he is more distracted by her than he was the first day. He receives in total two kisses from her that day, which he gives to the host without telling who he received them from.

The final day of hunting comes, and the host goes out to hunt a fox. The fox is the most cunning and sly of all the animals so far and takes more measures to catch than any of the animals before it. The fox relates to the host’s wife because of the way she uses her own sly techniques to try one final attempt at seducing Gawain. She dresses up in a seductive dress that reveals more than any dress that she wore before while he was visiting the castle. The dress was lined with fur, which is parallel to the fur pelt, which is the most valuable item from the fox. She also had jewels strewn through her hair, trying to show off her beauty. She tried to seduce Gawain by first asking him if he would not reciprocate her love because he has a lover at home. He shuts her down by telling her that he has no lover and that he would not take one. The host’s wife stops trying to seduce him sexually at this point, but she tries to tempt him three more times, showing that she is crafty in her seduction. Instead of testing him in his loyalty to the host and his knightly honor, she tempts him by using his desire to live. First, she asks him for a small token as a parting gift to remember him by, such as a glove. She then tries to offer him a ruby ring as something to remember her by. He rejects both these gifts because he has nothing to offer her. It is not until she offers him a green silk girdle that he thinks about giving into her temptations. He at first refuses the girdle until she says that it is a magical and protects the wearer from death, which is something he needs for his challenge with the Green Knight. He readily accepts this gift from the host’s wife, which shows that while he turned down the offer of love from the lady, he is just as caught as the fox in the end because he gave into the temptation. Gawain giving into his desire to live by accepting the girdle from the host’s wife shows that he has a human flaw, just as the fox was given the human characteristic of being a thief. He also felt that the belt was worth nothing to the host’s wife, just like the dead fox was worthless to the host. He only gives the host the three kisses that he received that day and does not tell him about the belt that he received, meaning that he not only lied to him about who the kisses came from, but also about receiving the belt that he should have given him at the end of the day because of their deal.

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