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Essay on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight essay:
This essay discusses in depth the personality of Sir Gawain as depicted by the author Marie Borroff in her book ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. By elucidating the outstanding traits of Sir Gawain, we shall show how rightly he has been claimed as the protagonist of the story, and how prominent qualities in his character make him so distinguishing from the rest of contemporary knights of King Arthur’s round table.

Sir Gawain
After a close study of the book ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ the traits of Sir Gawain as mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs make him the most prominent of all the knights in the Camelot of King Arthur.

Faith in God and Religious Devotion
The theme of religion can be well drawn from words of Gawain about his encounters depicting him as a religious man, a religious man who puts his faith in God’s care and acknowledges that he is protected. The words of the knight are filled with vigor in respect to the fate ahead of him. The fact was that the blow dealt to the green knight would be reciprocated to the participant in the game. Gawain struck the knights head off, and this was the fate he was entitled to face though with an assurance of regeneration after certain duration and this was a source of motivation for Gawain’s action.

Chivalry & Loyalty
Gawain is a knight; he is expected to protect the king from all harm regardless of the situation. The king endangers his life by accepting to participate in a dangerous game. Sir Gawain steps up to protect the king as expected. This is the theme of chivalry used in the poem to ensure relational poetry. In the Lords castle, Gawain refuses temptations from the Host’s wife. This shows Gawain is a man of honor and respects His Lords hospitality. Accepting such advances would discredit his honor and disrespect his host. The Chivalry theme is conflicted when Gawain finds himself in a dilemma. The advances from the Lady of the house and respect for the Lord put him in a difficult position.

Being a knight of the round table, ideals of chivalry are upheld with the brothers of the round table offering to share it on the burden carried by Gawain. Chivalry refers to the individuals actions in relation to the societal acceptable behavior. The knight behaves according to his expectation ensuring a balance in responsibility and expectations in the community. The theme ensures continuity in the poem, and understanding of the hierarchical relationship issues in the society. Thus the occasions on which Sir Gawain has been shown to display his loyalty and chivalry were the moments when King Arthur had accepted the challenge of the Green Knight all by himself and was about to pick the ax to behead the Green Knight when suddenly Sir Gawain leapt to replace his master and took the challenge himself. He displayed tremendous loyalty in sacrificing his life just to save the King Arthur who was also Gawain’s Uncle in blood relation.

Keeping Promises
Gawain has been depicted as a man of words, a person who always kept his promises. Gawain fulfilled the promise which he made with the Green Knight when the former beheaded the latter with ax. Another instance proving Gawain to be a man of words is that he responded truthfully to his host by then known to him only by the name Bertilak, the lord of the castle where he stayed. He had made promise with his host to return to him what he gets each day, so he gave him the number of kisses in return, which the wife of Bertilak gave to Gawain each day.

Chastity & Integrity
Gawain is essentially an honorable knight who always followed the path of truth not fearing for the consequences. The fact that Gawain did not respond to the sexual and seductive attempts on him from the wife of his host proves that he cared much for his honor and is not essentially a man of lose character. When once he made a mistake by accepting the green silk girdle from his hostess as a token of magical power to avert death, he felt guilty of committing such a low act that was not worthy of a religious and honorable man. Then he tied the green silk girdle around his arm so as to display his courage of convictions and his guts to admit his own fault.

Profound Insight into the Realities of Life
Sir Gawain has been depicted in the book as a knight who has much insight into the hard facts of life. He knows deeply how the varying circumstances in man’s life may affect his temperament and mood. So he believes that one must not continue to delve in the present situation though it could be at the height of joy, ecstasy or merriment. He knows that there is other side of the picture which is associated with adversaries. Gawain displays this insight when during the most rejoicing moments in the court of King Arthur on the occasion of New Year’s Eve while all are busy enjoying the feast, it is states in words quote:

Gawain was glad to begin those games in hall,
But if the end be harsher, hold it no wonder,
For though men are merry in mind after much drink,
A year passes apace, and proves ever new:
First things and final conform but seldom. (495–499)

And it happened as it was perceived in the above passage. Exactly a year after Gawain had to set out in search of the Green Chapel facing a lot of hardships and adversaries on the way and during the most hazardous journey. He was consumed with serious thoughts and surrounded all over by worries and about his fate prophesized by the Green Knight one year before when Gawain chopped off his head with ax.

CONCLUSION
It is said very rightly that both virtues and evils speak for themselves. A man with good nature and divinely qualities will exhibit actions that are virtuous and honest, while a person afflicted with evil elements will exhibit actions that are wicked and nasty. Same is the case with Sir Gawain who is essentially a man of divinely attributes as depicted in the book “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. And thus Sir Gawain always acted in the right direction and followed the path of integrity, loyalty, truthfulness, faith in God and Chivalry.

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Nov 18, 2011

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