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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English romance poem

written by an anonymous West Midlands poet also credited with a lot of

other poems written during that time. The protagonist, Sir Gawain, survives

two tests: a challenge, which he alone without the assistance of King

Arthur’s knights accepts, to behead the fearsome Green Knight and to let

him retaliate a year later at the distant Green Chapel; and the temptation

to commit adultery with the wife of Lord Bercilak–in reality the Green

Knight–in whose castle he stays in en route to the chapel. This story is

emblematic of life; how it issues tests and challenges and the consequences

rendered as a result of failing or succeeding these challenges.

Sir Gawain is a very symbolic character; symbolic in the sense that

he represents innocence in life. He was not afraid to accept a challenge

because it meant saving the kingdom from the affects of anarchy as a result

of not having a king. Sir Gawain accepting the challenge from the Green

Knight instantly represented one of the things that knighthood represented,

fearlessness. People accept those kind of challenges everyday. This could

possibly be where the term “sticking your neck out” could have come from.

When people accept challenges, most do not want to accept the consequences

as a result of being unsuccessful. Gawain was not like this. When the year

passed he gallantly mounted his horse and set off for the Green Chapel.

This showed that Gawain was brave. This was preceded by the warning “Beware,

Gawain, that you not end a betrayer of your bargain through fear.”

Along this journey Gawain faces peril and self-reluctance in the

form of the elements and the never-ending search for the chapel

respectively. These feeling can be characterized as the inner turmoil

suffered as a result of dealing with one’s conscience. The journey also

tested his faith in the sense that he was constantly in prayer during his

journey, and not once did he curse or renounce the name of God. It seems as

if the prayers were what kept Gawain sane and focused on the purpose of

his journey. Gawain’s prayers were answered when he rode along and finally

came upon a place that he could petition for possible rest.

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