Virtuous Men and Unscrupulous Women

I really enjoyed reading Le Morte d’Arthur in high school, but the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” was something different, and not nearly as fun to read. There’s a 65% chance I didn’t actually read the poem before writing this paper, which might prove evident after reading this.

Click here to read “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”.

Virtuous Men and Unscrupulous Women
Jason Carter
English 400-1

In the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, Gawain’s life can be paralleled to the lives Adam, Solomon, Samson, and David. Each of these men believed that they were loyal to God, but they were seduced by women who made their flaws apparent. The men then realized that they were not perfect, and their understanding made them better people and better prepared to enter heaven.

In the beginning, God created Adam, and Adam was faithful to God and all of His creations. According to the Anglo-Saxon belief, Adam had comitatus with God. God would create many animals and plants for Adam, and Adam would take care of these creations in return. It was a bond between God and his people. This relationship is similar to the one between King Arthur and his knights. The knights would be loyal to Arthur and protect him while Arthur would provide for his knights’ needs. The castle at Camelot, with its exquisite tapestries, silk curtains, and fine food, is the equivalent to the beautiful and abundant Garden of Eden.

However, God created woman, and she was tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve then seduced her husband and convinced him to eat the fruit as well. By doing this, Adam was no longer loyal to God, and they were banished out of the garden:

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto
the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree…
in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Genesis 3:17

Gawain was tempted in a similar way by the woman in the castle. For three days, she attempted to seduce Gawain, but he politely refused her requests. On the third day, she gave Gawain her green girdle so he would not be killed during his confrontation with the green knight. By accepting her gift, Gawain let his faith rest on the power of this girdle and not on the power of God and Mary. The green knight shows Gawain his fault, and Gawain realizes that he is not the perfect Christian. He also understands that many virtuous men have failed the test presented to them by other women:

But if a dullard should dote, deem it no wonder,
And through the wiles of a woman be wooed into sorrow,
For so was Adam by one, when the world began,
And Solomon by many more, and Samson the mighty
Delilah was his doom, and David thereafter
Was beguiled by Bathsheba, and bore much distress;


Gawain knows that, like himself, each of these men have failed the challenge presented by a woman, and he feels that his faults should be excused by the green knight and by God. It is at this point in the story that Gawain recognizes his faults and is elevated to a higher divine status.

In the beginning, Gawain believed that he could remain loyal to Mary, and he was reminded of his loyalty by the pentangle on his shield, “a token of truth.” He also had the portrait of the Virgin on the inside of his shield, a constant reminder that he should not fear death as long as he remained faithful to Mary.

However, despite these reminders, Gawain allows himself to be seduced by the woman in the castle, and she convinces him that her green girdle will protect him from danger. By accepting the girdle from her, Gawain is admitting that he puts more faith in this belt than he does God or Mary. This is what makes him a faulty Christian.

When Gawain finally meets the green knight, the knight takes three shots at Gawain’s neck, which is similar to the three days he spent with the lady at the castle. At the third swing, the knight nicks Gawain on the neck, a wound that is equivalent to the girdle that wounded his faith. The points out that by receiving the girdle, Gawain has marred his faithfulness towards Mary and God. Gawain, realizing his mistake, rips the girdle off in great haste and says:

Behold there my falsehood, ill hap betide it! Your cut
taught me cowardice, care for my life, and coveting came

after, contrary both to largesse and loyalty belonging to knights.

Gawain now knows that he feared death and that this fear made him an imperfect Christian. He hopes, though, that since virtuous men like Adam, Solomon, Samuel, and David were also tricked by seductive women that his actions will be forgiven by God and the green knight. Gawain feels that it is very hard for a man to remain loyal to Mary when there are seductive and tempting women out there.

The knight, however, refuses to take the girdle back. Instead, he makes Gawain wear it forever so that he will be constantly reminded that he is not a perfect human being. Gawain must ride back to King Arthur’s court with a cut of shame across his neck and a symbol of humility around his waist. Now that he must wear this green girdle, the color of rebirth and renewal, he can become a better person and be more prepared to enter heaven. Now he will constantly be reminded by the girdle to be loyal to God, and he will be a better Christian. In fact, Arthur believes that this idea will make all of his knights faithful, and he makes each knight wear a green girdle to remind them of their loyalty to God and to Mary.

This is how the adventures of Adam, Solomon, Samuel, and David can be related to Gawain to show that throughout history, man has fallen under the spell of seductive women and have been prevented from being perfect Christians. When the men realize that they are not perfect, they become more divine and move a step closer to heaven.

Concerning Characters and Class

If I remember correctly, I read Great Expectations, but didn’t read Northanger Abbey. This essay is terrible, just like the other high school essays, but some of the phrasing in here is pretty funny. And notice in the last line the use of the phrase “only just barely.” This classic was uttered by my sophomore year English teacher, only to be cleverly brought back to life by me two years later.

Concerning Characters and Class
Jason Carter
English 400–1

A common theme in the past three novels is the importance of social status to the main characters. The two novels which clearly portray this idea are Great Expectations and Northanger Abbey. These two books show the reader the characters Pip and Catherine trying their hardest to escape the status of “Average Joe,” and their attempts to fit into a higher social class.

In Great Expectations, we see Pip, an orphaned child with a blacksmith father, trying to break free from his foster parents and attempt to put on airs and live the good life with the upper crust. His entire goal in life is to become a better, more educated and refined man so that he can leave the dirty working class and become more aristocratic. Pip gets his first glimpse at this new lifestyle after his first visit to Miss Havisham’s house. During his first visit, Pip falls in love with Estella, but she is very critical of how common he really is. She laughs at how ordinary he is dressed, and she makes Pip feel self conscious of what he looks like to other people. Pip feels that he must change his lifestyle if he is going to become a better person. He asks his friend Biddy to help secretly educate him and he goes over to Miss Havisham’s more frequently in hopes of absorbing their extravagant life.

When Pip finds out that someone is going to give him money on a regular basis, he knows that this is his chance to escape from the bucolic lifestyle of Joe, Mrs. Joe, and Biddy. He realizes that he can leave the house now and move to the big city where he can find a job and learn to be a man. Pip is quick to drop the ordinary blacksmith and family when he is faced with the opportunity of becoming a more refined gentleman in the city. This is important because Pip will eventually feel guilty for his actions and he will realize that he made a mistake in dumping his friends so quickly for money and a new life.

When Pip finally gets to London and finds a job there, he becomes ashamed of his previous life on the farm with the blacksmith. He avoids going to see Joe and Biddy, and when Joe finally comes to the city, Pip is embarrassed and uncomfortable the entire time. He is still loyal to Estella, and he wants to impress her with his new lifestyle, but he can’t do this if an old and poor blacksmith comes to visit him. Pip proves to the reader here that he has sold out his friends in exchange for a new life. Pip’s new attitude proves to us that acquiring money and becoming a more distinguished person does not necessarily mean that you become a better person.

By the end of the book, Pip realizes that his new life is not worth it. He realizes that Estella is psycho and just wants to destroy men. He recognizes that he has ditched his real friends, and he knows now that the real honorable people in this world aren’t necessarily regal, rich, and smart. He sees that people like Joe and Biddy are happy, and they will always be there for him and to help him when he is in need.

In Northanger Abbey, we see another young person who would like to leave her surroundings in order to become a better person with a higher social class. Catherine Morland is a homely country girl with no class. When her parents see her one day, they think she might actually be becoming a pretty girl. When we first see her, Catherine is washed up and there is no hope for her, no chance of her becoming a proper lady.

The Allen’s see a glimmer of hope in Catherine’s eye and they haul her off to Bath to meet men and perhaps a future husband. The Allen’s realized that every girl must make such a pilgrimage if they are to become ladies. Catherine is hopeless when we see her, but the Allen’s inject a little hope into her pitiful and wretched life. So Catherine is shipped off in hopes of teaching her a little culture and hooking her up with some men. Catherine, Isabella, and Mrs. Allen go to all the great, big balls in town, and they meet all sorts of fabulous gents. Catherine meets Mr. Tilney one night, and she falls in love with his charming personality and distinguished and refined manners and attitude and prestigious class. It is during this time that Catherine gets all tied up with Thorpe but she feels obligated to do things with the Tilney’s as well. She is very concerned with offending people, and she will do anything to please everyone. This shows us that she is still an honorable person even though she gaining some class and a position in life. She is not becoming a snotty, snooty, little snob just because she someone special and is superior to some others surrounding her. Catherine is different from Pip because she is not letting her power corrupt her good character traits. She is not deserting those who mean something to her, and, therefore, her transformation into a quality person is beneficial and a good thing.

In these two novels, the main characters leave their common and simple lives in order to become more distinguished people. The results of this transformation affects their personalities in different ways and it makes these two similar people only just barely turn out to be different in the end.

An Ode to Convatec

Sadly, I had no hand in writing this. But it is beautiful nevertheless. A brief message from the author:

Well, here it is. The epic poem, which I could have gone on for stanzas and stanzas more, but decided for your sake to cut short. It’s for us, the co–ops of fall 96. Written solely on time where I should have been doing work. I thought it only appropriate. Enjoy.

My Friends

ConvaTec, ConvaTec, I think I shall
Never find a more fiendish pal.
You pay me well to sit and stare
Oft at naught but thin air
My friends have died and I have too
All of this, because of you.

Erin Blair, with golden hair
Disillusion was your fare
Mark and Bruce and yes Dave, too
All had fallen just for you
Happy and gay and without complaint
You were the picture of a saint
But then the drought and the despair
“I looked for work, and found none there.”
If that day had not arrived
Would Erin still be alive?

Jason Carter
the grand old martyr
In the crypt he made his home
Trapped by fate, like a gnome
His head he’d said was stolen away
Inside a box, they let it stay
They let him out, he thought they might
Into the hot room, for one full night
At a screen would he stare
I’m afraid, we lost him there.

Julie Chu we knew you well
Banana lover, friend and pal.
Tack text! tack text! I heard her say
No more tack tests! she would pray
A house of tack tests did she build
With dead flies was it filled.
Water uptake made her boil
The warden made her a good foil
Still I think and still I wonder
What could pull her asunder.

Eugene Chung, no one knew
What to think or make of you
Bored as hell and loud as thunder
Solace in books was his wonder
On and on he’d read and read
Korean, Math, or some new creed
Complacency he finally took
I tried and tried but couldn’t look

David Wasserman, tall as heaven,
at least to us, not five foot seven
In PPA did he sit
In PPA he did his s––t
Clean, Extrude, Snap on and off
Manual labor was in his trough
A bunny suit, a flange, an air tester, too
It’s so sad, he died so soon

So I sit and wait to die
I fear my time has near drawn nigh
No more freight train, no more fear
No more ConvaFood out my rear.
Away, away to a better place,
Not let my mind go to waste
Atrophy, atrophy was their cry
We’ll escape, come with me fly

ConvaTec, ConvaTec, I think I shall
Never find a more fiendish pal.
The mind you took, away from us
Shall return to lowly dust
Raise the standard, hoist the flag
But my oh my, there’s just one snag
Summer comes and we’re here again
So I guess there’s just one end.

Hear me future co–ops, heed my words,
Rita and Alan, they know the lords
Guard your heart, and guard your mind
Then happiness you might find

As for you my friends with me,
We’ll make it through, you and me.
We’ll make it I say,
We’ll make it, they’ll see…

The Bacon Park Yardage Book

The last month of senior year at The Savannah Country Day School is spent outside of class on an independent study project. Students are expected to do an internship in the field that they plan to pursue in college. For the ambitious (and foolish), this means supervised internships at hospitals and law firms. My friend and I had a better idea; we would spend our month on the local golf course playing golf and creating a yardage book. The idea was actually based on a pretty good business idea. The book would cost very little to produce and we had authorization to sell it in the pro shop. In the end, we succumbed to “senioritis” and only created nine nicely drawn holes that never made it to the masses. I don’t know what happened to those drawings, but I do have our final report, included below with my comments in red.

Bacon Park Yardage Book
Jason A. Carter
May 25th, 1994

The purpose of our Independent Study Project was to create an effective yardage book for Bacon Park Golf Course. This book would include an accurate drawing of each hole with distances from sprinkler heads and key landmarks, such as trees, bunkers, and water hazards. We anticipate that this book will make it easier for all golfers to understand the layout of the course and give them the correct yardage on every hole.

Okay, we start off pretty well here. Some of the holes at Bacon Park definitely require some yardage clarification.

In preparation for this project, we contacted several civil engineering firms in Savannah in hopes of renting a laser to measure the distances on the course. The firm Thomas and Hutton allowed us to use their sonic distance finder, which proved to be effective for distances over water. The school’s maintenance staff allowed us to use the wheel that marks off the football fields to measure long range distances not covered by the laser.

For the record, it was a two–piece ultrasonic device. Not sure why there’s mention of a laser. I think, at this late stage, we were doing anything we could to make this project seem more technical than it really was.

In order to make the process of finding these distances more efficient, we split the procedure into two different parts. First, we walked each hole and made a map showing where each sprinkler was located, and we measured the width and depth of every green and tee box. Then, on a separate day, all of the distances were measured with the laser and wheel. After all of this was accomplished, accurate drawings were made of each hole, and all yardages were filled in. These drawings will then be reduced on a copying machine and arranged so the book will be small and compact, yet easy to read and understand. Even though we were not supervised while on the course, Mark Geistweite, General Manager of Bacon Park, assisted us by making sure the course wasn’t too crowded for us. Under the advisement of Alan Begrowicz and Wayne Aaron, our progress was monitored, and we were able to work in a timely fashion.

Read between the lines here: this month–long assignment was completed in two days! Amazingly, no one questioned what we did the other 28.

We found in the past month that working on this book has been very different from any other type of project or job. Rather than working under constant and strict orders, we were allowed a few creative liberties. For instance, we had total control over the book and its design. There were no regulations or requirements to dictate how we would produce the book, so we were free to create something that we thought would look good and be effective. The staff at Bacon Park was also very considerate and cooperative when our presence was anything but a convenience.

I find our perceptions back then to be quite humerous now. I, for one, had not performed an honest day’s work at the time of writing this, but I had no trouble imagining the “regulations” and “constant and strict orders” that awaited me after high school. How do you like the self–depricating jab at the end there?

When we came up with the idea to create a yardage book, we believed that it would not be a very hard or long task to accomplish. When it came time to measure the course, we found that it would be more difficult than expected, due to the number of golfers on the course. We also discovered that water hazards and bunkers made measurement of the holes much more difficult. Finding a convenient time to design the book also presented a problem that we had not considered. What wasn’t finished in the afternoon had to be done late into the night. When all of these factors were combined, we realized that the entire project would take much longer than we expected. The idea started out simple, but it became much more complicated, and we realized that we would not be able to finish all that we had set out to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Overall, working on this yardage book has been very enjoyable and interesting. Being avid golfers, we were intrigued and excited by our discoveries and results, and we look forward to finally producing the finished product.

Uh oh. Start the backpeddling. We worked on this for only two days, and yet it still was more difficult than expected. We even had to work late into the night to get all of this done. As I recall, it actually was a relatively easy night spent over some beers and a sketch pad.

If someone were to follow in our footsteps, we recommend that the project be cut from 27 to 18 holes. Through our experiences, we found that much more time is needed to create an acceptable product that will serve its purpose. The project would be accomplished much faster and easier if there was a third person who could assist in the designing of the course.

I’m not sure where the 18 hole recommendation came from. We only managed to finish nine holes in one month

Overall, we feel that working with Bacon Park has been a very enjoyable arrangement and we look forward to producing a product that will be worth all our efforts.

This wraps it up nicely, I think. Playing golf every day for a month certainly was an enjoyable arrangement. And I thought the finished product was pretty sharp too. Too bad we didn’t follow through with it – it would have been nice to have some additional beer money for the summer.

Subway Sonnet

We were studying Shakespeare’s sonnets and the assignment for the week was to write a sonnet about an everyday object or event. At the time, I was putting down approximately three or four Subway sandwiches a week and had developed a vicious habit for the turkey and bacon deluxe. It seemed natural for me to write a sonnet about this.

I think we were suppose to approach the assignment with some degree of seriousness, if only out of respect for Shakespeare. But I just couldn’t do it. However, if I remember correctly, this sonnet was written in iambic pentameter in an ABAB rhyming pattern.

The Subway Sonnet
Jason A. Carter
English 400

Her delicate hands poised with utmost care
Grasped the thin utensil as they prepare.
The strip of leavened wheat fresh out the oven
Lays atop the counter ready for cuttin’
After she slices the hot loaf in two,
He’s eager to dress it and looks at you.
“I’d like turkey with bacon.” you say to him,
And he slowly fixes it without a whim.
Wrapped in paper and covered with plastic,
The footlong delight appears fantastic.
When finished with the delectable treat,
You think of the pair who achieved this feat.
Without their labors, accomplished with zeal,
You would not have received such a good meal.