International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Obstacle and the Way: Women and Gender in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Dr. Shadi Neimneh, Qusai Al-Thebyan

This paper examines the double-edged logic behind events and characters in the Arthurian romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In particular, it highlights the ambivalent, contradictory way in which women function and the ramifications of the way women stand in relation to knighthood. Though a woman is the cause of the Knight's failure (the obstacle), she is also the agent of such a realization (the way). Adopting a double approach rather than a problematic mono-dimensional stance, we attempt to show how women are simultaneously the “obstacle” and the “way” to chivalric adventures and the knightly ideal. Women hinder or delay knightly adventures, and yet trigger new adventures in the process. In the very act of testing the knightly ideal, they can hone the individual characters of Arthur’s knights as manifested in the case of Gawain. Understanding this double role of women can help us distance ourselves from the contradictory readings of the poem and appreciate the richness of the text. A multiplicity of interpretations, i.e. ambivalence, is a thematic link the text invites.

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