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The Lesson of Sir Gawain Essay

  • Submitted by: ithjumesa
  • on August 25, 2009
  • Category: Arts and Music
  • Length: 975 words

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Below is an essay on "The Lesson of Sir Gawain" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term paper examples.

Sir Gawain is challenged. Gawain’s quest is not a typical challenge of the heroic knight errant; rather it is the inner-wrought moral challenge of Gawain’s soul, and of his own human nature. Gawain’s quest takes him from the shining court of Arthur to the fetid Chapel Green. Along the way Gawain is sorely tested, both in bravery and chivalry. Though Gawain pridefully upholds the highest perfection of moral codes and Christian knighthood, he comes to recognize a painful lesson; that all men are merely human, and thus imperfect as nature created him.

Gawain’s first test is exemplified by Green Knight’s challenge to exchange blows with an axe. The Green Knight presents a most fearsome sight to the Christian court of King Arthur, for his vigor and green color embody the wildness of nature. The Green Knight’s confidence, and his challenge to the court create a caricature of the bravery of knighthood. Gawain manages show some humility when he acknowledges himself to be the weakest of the knights. It is interesting to note that at no time does the Green Knight suggest that the stroke must be a mortal blow even though he willingly bares his neck to Gawain. Gawain seizes this moment to deal what would certainly be a deathblow, and beheads the Green Knight. The beheading of the Green Knight by Gawain shows the conflict of a knight’s warrior duties in contract to the teachings of Christianity. By dealing the Green Knight a beheading Gawain now realizes he must also now be on the receiving end of the same death stroke in kind one year hence.

Gawain shows us that he is the honorable and true knight he claims to be by traveling north to find the Green Knight as agreed upon. The rich description of Gawain’s garments, illustratrated by the pentangle on his shield, tells us that Gawain adheres to the code of chivalry. Gawain is described as “faultless in his five senses” [line 640]. The poet goes on to list the ways in which Gawain is virtuous: “his five fingers never fail...

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