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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Explicatory Essay

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Updated: Apr 5th, 2021

Sir Gawain and the Green knight is a story set in the Middle English and was written by an unknown person from West Midlands. He is famed with many other works that were also written around the same period.

Sir Gawain is the protagonist in the tale. Several events in the story describe his true nature. He foregoes two daunting tests. This is a challenge that he accepts without seeking help from King Arthur’s knights; a challenge to behead the dangerous and feared Green Knight and to allow him retaliate one year after at the Green Chapel.

This added to the excitement of committing adultery with Lord Bercilak’s wife. In the real sense, it is at the Green Knight’s abode that Gawain rests on his way to the chapel. This tale is symbolic of life; how it sets trials and dares and the results that arise because of triumphing in passing these challenges. Gawain is a true depiction of heroism in the story due to his zeal and gallantry on how he handled tasks (Peters 2).

Sir Gawain is truly, a figurative character in the story. He is symbolic in the way he depicts the innocence of life. He did not fear at all to agree to all challenges since it pointed at salvaging the entire kingdom from the serious effects of anarchism that could arise from the failure of having a central king.

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His acceptance to a duel against the Green Knight immediately portrayed one of the elements that knighthood stood for. This is the aspect of fearlessness. Individuals accept such dares on a daily basis. Indeed, this could be the basic foundation of the roots of the term “sticking one’s neck out”. In instances where individuals take up on certain tasks or challenges, many are never prepared to live with the results of an unsuccessful feat.

However, Gawain was the opposite of this. Peters says that after the end of one year, he bravely rode his horse and went to the Green chapel. This not only proved that he was fearless but a true hero. This was of course preceded by the caution “take caution Gawain, that you will not be a deserter of your trial through fear” (178).

Throughout his journey, Gawain encounters dangerous situations and self-reluctance in some factors and the undying exploration for the chapel. This sentiment can be exemplified as the inner suffering experienced as a consequence of dealing with personal scruples. The long journey also gauged his faith as he continually prayed throughout his travels. He did not curse or downplay God’s name at any time. Evidently, it is true that the prayers served to keep Gawain sane and committed to the reason of his journey.

Gawain’s wishes and prayers are responded to when he moves and ends arriving at a location where he could ask for an apparent rest. The castle he finds becomes the setting for his next rest. His main challenge grows as he enjoys his time at the court and discovers that there is a woman who is excited by the prospects of getting to know and understand him in a better way.

The woman turns out to be the wife of Lord Bercilak; the Green Knight. This is depicted as a temptation. The woman in question attempts to entice Gawain while her husband is on a hunting expedition. Gawain manages to rebuff her trials except for a single kiss which he talks of in a confession. The woman offers him a sash which is believed to guard anyone who wears it from an apparent harm (Williamson 27).

He takes possession of the sash, although reluctantly and does not mention to Lord Bercilak that he got it from his wife. This is because he accords most of his trust in material possession rather than God who can guard him from any form of harm. Most of his actions above are representative of his heroism save for this last act which appears to be one of his downfalls in the story.

Gawain later heads for the chapel and gets the Green Knight ready for him and honing his axe. Gawain takes a bend over a blow which is immediately feinted by the Knight. This causes Gawain to flinch and he is reprimanded by the knight for that action. The knight goes for the axe again but repeats his earlier trick by feinting the blow. This infuriates Gawain who is not impressed at the playful nature that the knight employs.

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The knight’s third blow hits Gawain at the back of his neck. He later elaborates that the first two blows that he made are only representative of the exchanges at the court between Gawain and his wife which he rejected, and the last blow was symbolic of the failure of Gawain during the final encounter with the woman where he accepted the sash offered to him as a replacement of his faith he had in God earlier.

This action according to the knight can be pardoned and lauds Gawain for indeed being exemplary and one of the most trustworthy individuals he had come across in his life. Peters mentions that the knight commented, “Gawain was polished of that dilemma and cleansed” (124).

This meant that men, in spite of their liabilities and disparities can be pardoned. Gawain sees fault in himself and feels like he has lost the confidence of other people with him. However, he gets forgiveness from his peers. Obviously, even the knight sees Gawain’s heroism basing on what he comments about him. That even in the face of adversities and failures, Gawain can still seek pardon and remorse from peers.

Gawain’s character in the story is representative of the values of the society in which the texts were written. There was much regard and respect for God’s will and expectation of man to always respect the creator and his rules. Gawain cautiously and skillfully evades a woman’s wiles and tricks that could have led to adultery.

This tale has much to do with how a man should lead his life. We are faced with many tests and challenges on a daily basis, and to be pardoned of any of these is indeed normal. This tale will always be reminisced for its intense poetic nature in the way Gawain is handled, and can be utilized as a foundation on which people can judge their actions. Gawain is indeed a man and every one of them has pardonable faults. What is astounding however is that Gawain is a hero based on his actions that are mentioned above.

Works Cited

Peters, Scott. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Analysis. London: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.

Williamson, Neilson. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ontario: Middle English Series, 1999. Print.

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