During the time of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to die an honorable death or to die while completing a quest was held with much higher regard than to die a coward. The code of chivalry was an extremely important concept and it was a knight’s duty to live up to this. If a knight was to take up a challenge, he should endure anything to finish it, even if it means death. But just because a knight is bound to comply with the code does not mean there are no feelings of dread. Knights, even the best ones, are afraid of dying but they are also afraid of defying the chivalric code. Which route should they take when faced with a choice between the two decisions? Death may be frightening enough to make knights choose their life over their honor but the code of chivalry can be important enough for them to override their conclusion. Death knocks frequently on Gawain’s door as he journeys to the Green Chapel in order to fulfill his agreement with the Green Knight. He has to face actual dangers and the pessimistic voice in his head. He is afraid of the unknown that we call death. Though being a knight requires him to not show any fear of death, it does not mean that he is fearless. In fact, many examples accurately show Gawain’s fear of eternal rest. As he treks through unknown country, “he found in those lands / enemies lurked” and “only constant courage and the care of his God / could save him sometimes from certain death” (above 32). He also has thoughts of death and these are what ultimately drive Gawain to accept the girdle from Lady Bertilak. The girdle will save him from certain death so his accepting it means he is afraid of death. While Gawain holds the code and his duty in high regard, he also holds onto the girdle, thus proving that he is susceptible to human fears. During his mission, Gawain displays many acts of staying true to the code of chivalry. Gawain’s first act occurs when King Arthur has to respond to the Green Knight’s request because none of his...
Bibliography: Armitage, Simon. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A New Verse Translation. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.
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