Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
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.