Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:
Repentance and the Redefining of Honor
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English romance that intertwines the ideas of the importance of chivalry, Christian virtues and outward appearances, present within Arthurian legends. Sir Gawain is the epitome of the noble, virtuous knight who also strives to be an obedient man of God, represented by the pentangle and image of Mary within his shield (650). But with the arrival of the Green Knight at King Arthur’s court, Gawains faith in God and his Christian morals collide with his desire to be seen as the honorable, brave knight of Arthur’s court. When Gawains desire for self-preservation overcomes his faith in God, causing him to befall, some readers have come to the conclusion that Gawain is faulty in his claim to embody qualities of both an admirable, honorable knight and an honorable man of God. But it would be inaccurate to perceive Gawain as guilty, for it must be considered if exemplifying both these different ideals is even attainable. Gawain is striving to be an impossibly idealistic image of how a man should be instead of realizing that God made us human, knowing we would befall to sin. Gawains only fault is holding his self to an unrealistic courtly ideal, as well as having a humanly desire to live. These faults cannot be reason enough to condemn him, and therefore, Gawain cannot be considered guilty either. In realizing this we can actually recognize the successes of Sir Gawain in the end of his trials through his repentance and his return to Arthur’s court with a new definition of honor.
SGGK begins in the extravagant court of King Arthur during Christmas time celebrations. The luscious descriptions of the courts décor, the peoples overdone attire, and their excessive feasting (147-148) leave us the evidence to conclude that outward appearances are very important within Arthur’s court. This becomes even more evident with the arrival of the Green Knight,...
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